The American Petroleum Institute (API) recently issued its “Climate Action Framework”, that sets forth API’s position regarding “climate change”, and what it believes should be the fossil fuel industry’s posture on this issue in the future.

Perhaps you would expect API to launch a vigorous defense of fossil fuels, a validation of their essential role in modern life, and an evisceration of the theory man-made global warming.

But you would be wrong – very wrong.

In fact, the Framework is just the opposite. It is an open display of craven defeatism and submission to the woke, liberal world view which holds that the residue of the combustion of fossil fuels are “emissions” – pollutants – which are harmful to the planet and therefore must be harshly regulated and ultimately eliminated.

Well, perhaps not completely eliminated. API allows that some fossil fuels are apparently OK, such as “differentiated” natural gas, which API does not define, But even this kind of fossil fuel (whatever it is), faces a grim future in a world in which API “shares with global leaders the goal of reduced emissions to meet the climate challenge”.

So how does API believe the petroleum industry should behave in order to meet this “climate challenge”? According to the Framework, the industry should support “the commercial deployment of carbon capture”, the”direct regulation of methane from new and existing siting sources”, the “pricing of carbon dioxide emissions across the economy”, the “avoidance of carbon leakage “, and so forth. All of them clear calls for retreat and surrender.

In order to camoflage this capitulation, API at times adopts the device of impenetrable gobbledygook, such as advocating that the fossil fuel industry “report comparable climate related indicators in new template” and “avoid carbon leakage and integrate with global carbon markets while focusing on net energy emissions.”

But have no doubt where API stands. Stated succinctly, API believes that “reducing methane emissions is a priority for our industry to address the risks of climate change”, and that the petroleum industry must tailor its activities in to “reach the ambitions of the Paris Climate Agreement.”

There you have it. API has adopted the most radical, least evidence-based, most extreme position held by climate change alarmists – that the combustion of fossil fuels is a threat to civilization.

Perhaps API could have pushed back against climate alarmism just a tiny bit. It could have observed that fossil fuels are the lynchpin of modern civilization, and that it is hard to imagine how the world could possibly enjoy so much prosperity and abundance without them. It might have pointed out the beneficial effect of atmospheric CO2 o plants; that warming of the atmosphere precede, does not follow a rise in CO2; that water vapor ( clouds) are the driver of climate temperature, not CO2. In short, it could educated the public about the science which counters the demonization of CO2 by agenda-driven alarmists.

But API did not do or say any of those things.

Once the brain trust at API conceded that fossil fuel based CO2 molecules were an “emission’ – a harmful pollutant – they laid down their arms and admitted defeat. Perhaps they thought they were being clever – achieving “peace in our time” – instead of following a course of courage, conviction, and the truth. By engaging in a foolish hope that climate idealogues and zealots might stop short of demanding the total abolition of fossil fuels, they abandoned their mission and failed their constituents.

Indeed, climate alarmists have called for the complete elimination of fossil fuels. Just read the Virginia Clean Economy Act or the Biden Infrastructure Plan.

So if I was fossil fuel producer, and a member of API, I would renounce my membership, ask for my money back, and then stand by and watch API. fade into irrelevancy.

Like the French living in Vichy France, API envisions a world where the fossil fuel industry will only continue to exist with the permission of, and to the extent allowed by, its oppressors.

With the future of the fossil industry at stake, API could have chosen to be a Churchill. Instead, it chose to be a Chamberlain – a sad epitaph for a once proud organization.


  • Johnson has spent the last four decades working in the public and private sectors in Virginia, primarily in the fields of project finance and maritime transportation. He began his career in public service as Chairman of the Board of the Virginia Port Authority. He was appointed by President George W. Bush, and confirmed by the Senate, as a member of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and most recently, as Administrator of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. In that capacity, he became knowledgeable in the field of climate and its impact on the Great Lakes. He currently serves on CFACT’s Board of Advisors. Johnson holds a B.A. degree from Yale University, and a J.D. from the University of Virginia.