Cartoon: Oil and Gas are So Cheap!

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This cartoon was inspired by one of AOC’s tweets.

I read that and thought of the cartoon idea. And then pretty much immediately started work drawing it.

The Union of Concerned Scientists writes:

We’ve all paid a utility bill or purchased gasoline. Those represent the direct costs of fossil fuels; money paid out of pocket for energy from coal, natural gas, and oil.

But those expenses don’t reflect the total cost of fossil fuels to each of us individually or to society as a whole. Known as externalities, the hidden costs of fossil fuels aren’t represented in their market price, despite serious impacts to our health and environment.

And from NPR:

Fossil fuel producers should avoid extracting at least 90% of coal reserves and 60% of oil and gas reserves by 2050, according to a study published in Nature, to limit global temperature rise to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Even then, that gives the planet only a 50% chance of avoiding a climate hotter than that.

Global temperatures have already warmed about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 1800s, due in large part to the burning of fossil fuels, which releases gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. As a result of the warming, droughts, storms and heat waves are becoming more extreme, causing a cascade of disasters.

(Research for any cartoon about global warming is seriously depressing!)

I became excited about drawing this cartoon when I realized I could draw the first three panels as a single continuous image – something I’ve been wanting to incorporate into my political cartoons for months. This technique is more common in comic books than in comic strips like this one – although the earliest use of the technique I know of was in a few Sunday pages of the innovative comic strip Gasoline Alley back in the 1930s.

Working on the reprint collection over the last few weeks had reminded me that I used to do non-naturalistic, limited color palettes more often, and I really like the way they look. So I decided to go that route for this cartoon. I was trying for a muddy, grim feel for the first three panels, to contrast with bright and almost antiseptic colors for panel four.

This one took a lot of time to draw. Both the post-hurricane wreckage environment, and the private jet plane environment, took research and a bunch of time to draw. For the jet plane interior, I based my drawing very closely on some photo I found online, but for some reason recreated the perspective grid so I could draw it from scratch, rather than purely tracing. The wreckage environment isn’t based on any one picture; instead, I looked at a lot of pictures, until I felt able to draw something from imagination that would at least get the feeling across.

Then, literally as I was writing the above paragraphs, I thought “wait, what if we could see the jet plane from panel 4, in the sky in panel 1? That would link the two environments together, at least for readers who notice.” Fortunately, drawing things on computer makes changes like that pretty easy to manage, and a half-hour later a jet plane was in panel 1’s sky.


This cartoon has four panels.

The first three panels show a continuous scene of post-hurricane wreckage; house roofs lie on the ground at odd angles, all sorts of lumber and shards of unidentifiable broken objects are sticking up in the air, or litter the ground. A power line pole and a couple of streetlamps are leaning at odd angles. There are occasional identifiable objects mixed with all the litter on the ground; a hairbrush, a child’s ball, a desktop computer. All three panels are colored in greens, browns, and dim oranges that (I hope) will remind people of mud. The sky is a dull orange. A distant jet plane – incongruously colored in shades of blue – can be seen in the sky.

There are dazed-looking people standing in or looking through the wreckage.


A man with dark hair, rectangular glasses and a neat van dyke beard is clutching a little pile of framed photos to his chest. A woman sits on the ground near him, her face in her hands. Nearby, a person wearing a long coat, and lifting what might be a round table top, looks back at the man with the van dyke beard.

BEARD: I rescued some family photos… everything else is gone.

LONG COAT: Me too… My business, my house…


A woman wearing a hoodie, and with her hair mostly wrapped in a scarf, is talking to a child and petting her on the head.

HOODIE: Mommy’s in the hospital, so you’ll stay with me until we find Daddy.

HOODIE (thought): If we do.


A man in a striped sweater stands, looking sad and dazed. Further in the foreground, an older man, bald and with glasses and wearing a vest, and a woman with a baseball cap and her hair tied in a pony tail, are looking around and talking. The woman is looking at a smart phone.

GLASSES: How much will it cost to rebuild all this?

BASEBALL CAP: Billions. Weather disasters cost us $99 billion last year.


A new setting. We are aboard a private jet plane. On one side of the aisle is a long sofa; on the other side, a single airplane-style seat, with a full table (not just a fold-out tray) in front of it. There’s a vase with flowers, and an open laptop, on the table. Sitting in the seat, a man wearing a collared shirt with a striped necktie is talking on his cell phone. Nearby, a flight attendant is holding a tray, offering the man a glass of wine. This panel is colored mostly in antiseptic blues, although the people are colored in a light, bright orange.

NECKTIE: So I told the senator, “forget wind and solar! Oil and gas are so much cheaper!”

This cartoon on Patreon.

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