Our dependence on oil and energy resources has been a popular topic of discussion for quite some time. As criticism of the industry, business practices, economic and environmental risks associated with various projects and companies take centre stage in public debate, those sympathetic to the industry raise their voices too.

There are a lot of themes to discuss here, as the politics of oil and energy affect most aspects of our lives in some way or another, but in observing debate and conversation on the matter, one thing has repeatedly annoyed me:

According to some, it would seem that anyone who criticizes any aspect of the oil industry or related projects is a hypocrite, because they own or use things that are dependent on oil byproducts.

I keep waiting for someone to make a sound argument in defence of this stance, but I’ve never seen one made. From those defending or minimizing questionable oil industry practices, what I do see is a whole lot of ad hominem and illogical, hyperbolic nonsense.

Greenpeace RE: Shell and LEGO = Hypocritical?

An individual argues Greenpeace are hypocritical for campaigning for Lego to end it’s partnership with Shell, contending that they use oil products and that their concern with an oil corporation of questionable record being promoted in children’s toys is somehow invalid.

Can you imagine a Fortune 500 company speaking this way to their shareholders? “C’mon guys, you invested in us, so criticizing any aspect of how we do business makes you a hypocrite and your opinion is invalid!”

That is what I see over and over again from the keyboard warriors who feel compelled to argue with environmentalists, activists and progressive conversationalists who criticize things the oil industry is doing.

Contentions with various projects are often regarding their safety, or ethical concerns regarding how they do business or questionable information they are seeding to the public. If someone were heavily invested in the industry and worked for an oil company and was concerned with the direction the company was taking, are their opinions also invalidated by association?

Being invested in something that you are criticizing does not automatically make you a hypocrite. It may even mean you have more of a reason to be critical and that it makes you less of a hypocrite given its importance to you and vested interest in its future.

It’s also reasonable to expect that an individual existing in modern day North America has a certain level of dependence on products and services that may make use of oil industry byproducts. Participation in these discussions seems to depend on it. Telling people they can’t speak out against something they think is wrong because the device they need to do so makes them a hypocrite is at best, a very lazy avoidance of debate.

Stop calling people hypocrites for criticizing the oil industry. Make better arguments if you must, but unless you are able to demonstrate that an individual is at least proactively assisting in the proliferation of the practices they are criticizing, they are probably not hypocrites and you will probably look foolish.

Image: Deepwater Horizon Offshore Drilling Platform on Fire –  courtesy of Ideum – ideas + media via Flickr.  Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic


Musician, designer, developer, social media nerd, amateur writer + designer of games, tea drinker (recently turned coffee snob), comedy addict, reluctant activist/gov't policy nut. Sometimes the locals call me "Adam from the internet."