Mike Rowe, oilsplainer
In a 6,000-word Facebook post, the "Dirty Jobs" host explained to a climate reporter why fossil fuels are Actually Good
Mike Rowe, who hosts the popular television show Dirty Jobs, has another show coming out soon on Discovery+ called Six Degrees. The new show is sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute, the largest trade group for the oil and gas industry.
The point of Six Degrees is to remind us that we’re all connected—and, by the way, that everything is connected to oil and gas. Rowe “shouts out the oil and gas industry in some capacity in every episode,” journalist Dharna Noor wrote in an article in Earther last week, headlined “Mike Rowe’s New Discovery+ Show is Big Oil-Funded Propaganda.”
It’s an accurate headline. The oil and gas industry is funding and sponsoring Six Degrees because it wants to promote Rowe’s point of view, which is beneficial to the industry politically. Rowe’s point of view, specifically, is that oil and gas is necessary for human prosperity, and that without it we would all be very poor and very sad.
Rowe would say this is simply a fact, but it’s not. It’s a political position based fundamentally on the rejection of two facts: 1) that it is entirely possible (and cost-effective) to transition the global economy to 100 percent renewable energy in 30 years, and 2) that fossil fuel-caused climate change is one of the most severe threats to human prosperity in existence.
The reason I know Rowe would say this is because he already did—not in Noor’s article, which he did not comment for—but in a 6,000-word response posted to his Facebook page on Monday.
If oilsplaining isn’t a word already, it should be, because it’s the only way I feel like I can describe this essay’s purpose.
In the post to his 5.3 million followers, Rowe addresses Noor by her first name 17 times. He explains the necessity of fossil fuels, and why they are Not Bad but Actually Good. “I try to look at both sides of the climate debate” before jumping to conclusions, he says to the climate reporter. Rowe also says Noor’s reporting has not “uncovered” anything, because technically, all the information is public.
Rowe goes on to explain that neither his show nor the sponsorship can be considered propaganda. Technically, the facts within all the episodes are true. He also says he can’t be a shill for Big Oil, because even though they’re paying him, they didn’t tell him what to say.
Rowe also accuses Noor of attempting to “shame” and “intimidate” him—Mike Rowe, one of the most popular television hosts on the planet. He says he didn’t decline to comment, but simply did not have time; she sent three questions the night before, and her deadline was the next morning. Don’t you know he’s busy, Dharna? Silly girl.
I encourage you to go read the whole post, because it’s super fun. But really, what’s most important to know is why the American Petroleum Institute has chosen to sponsor this guy.
Right now, the Biden administration is trying to to transition the U.S. away from fossil fuels. They’re doing it to try and prevent catastrophic climate change. They’re trying to do it quickly, too, because that’s what climate scientists say must happen to prevent mass death and destruction. They’re also trying to do it while creating lots of jobs. That happens when you’re building a whole new energy economy.
Unfortunately, none of the jobs that the Biden administration wants to create are oil and gas jobs. Because oil and gas, while it has been hugely beneficial to society in many ways, is currently the number one cause of climate change in America. Petroleum and natural gas make up 75 percent of fossil-fuel-related CO2 emissions, and about 50 percent of all methane emissions. Look at that graph below. There’s not much left.
So the oil and gas industry needs messaging that convinces Americans they still need fossil fuel jobs, climate consequences be damned. To do that, they need hugely popular, likeable celebrities who will glorify the industry without talking about the consequences of its continued growth.
Mike Rowe is perfect for that. He already loves oil, and doesn’t accept the full economic threat of climate change. So he doesn’t need to be told what to say—he’ll write those 6,000 words all on his own. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it. Don’t you get that, Dharna??
Catch of the Day:
Fish has the dirtiest job in America: patrolling the yard for rats.
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Stay hydrated, eat plants, break a sweat, and have a great day!
Some background here from Adam Johnson and Nima Shirazi: https://soundcloud.com/citationsneeded/episode-64-mike-rowes-koch-backed-working-man-affectation
Thanks for this. I gave up reading his posts a while ago. Maybe I’ll force myself through this one so I have responses prepared. I know a lot of people who love this guy. I appreciate his advocacy for the trades and it really sucked to watch him make this turn.