Guest essay by Eric Worrall
As public realisation grows that renewables are not delivering results, oil companies are confidently pushing for policy makers to recognise gas as a permanent part of the solution to climate change, rather than viewing gas as a “transition fuel”.
Big Oil Pushes Gas as Fossil Fuel Answer to Global Warming
By Kevin Crowley , Rachel Adams-Heard , and Naureen S Malik
29 June 2018, 09:00 GMT+10 Updated on 30 June 2018, 07:59 GMT+10
To reduce emissions and provide affordable electricity, the world needs to burn more fossil fuels, not less.
That’s the message being delivered by the world’s biggest energy companies at the World Gas Conference in Washington this week, where they championed natural gas as the fuel of the future, rather than one that simply bridges the gap toward renewables.
The world is facing the twin challenge of growing power supply — which Royal Dutch Shell Plc says needs to increase five times over the next 50 years — and reducing emissions to meet climate change targets. Energy companies see gas doing double duty: it has half the carbon emissions of coal when used in power generation, is abundant and relatively cheap.
The “big challenge for us in the industry is helping people recognize gas as a destination fuel, not just a transition fuel,” BP Plc Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley said during a panel discussion. “There’s another camp, a surprising camp, that is intent on discrediting gas as an option.”
Pushed by consumers, governments and some shareholders, big energy companies, especially those in Europe, have been investing in renewables. BP said Thursday it plans to acquire the U.K.’s largest electric vehicle charging company, while Shell and Total have bought utilities. Norway’s Equinor ASA links employee pay to cleaner energy production from the executive level down, among other metrics.
While Equinor will “remain an oil and gas company for the foreseeable future,” the company is “always pursuing new and tougher emissions targets” alongside profitability, Tor Martin Anfinnsen, executive vice president for marketing, midstream and processing, said in an interview.
Pushing gas is potentially a clever strategy, especially in places like Europe or green US states, where politicians are facing the growing nightmare of unwinding their renewable policy mistakes. As recently as February this year BP were talking up their plans to invest more in renewables, so pushing for policymakers to consider transition to gas as part of a permanent climate target rather than aiming for a 100% renewable climate target seems quite a shift in direction.
Update (EW): the oil companies aren’t (yet) pushing for the complete elimination of renewables, updated the post to make this clear