Why are big European oil companies urging action on climate change? What are they selling now, bananas?

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Europe’s biggest oil companies recently vomited forth a joint statement professing grave concern for the environment, and throwing in for free a lecture on the need for better planning to deal with it. I wish I was making this stuff up but I lack the imagination. Maybe Sepp Blatter is calling the shots, lord knows something weird is happening. Well, maybe not that weird if we look behind the curtain…

It’s not hard to figure out why these guys are throwing their own children under the bus, so to speak. Europe does take this environmental stuff completely seriously. Which is good, but the hatred of fossil fuels is a bit much. Yes, there are good reasons to move away from fossil fuels, but when the hatred is indiscriminate, there’s a rat there somewhere. For instance, Denmark has a plan to get off coal, oil and natural gas by 2050. Good for them. But lumping coal and natural gas together as a common problem, environmentally speaking, is like lumping Germany and Greece together as equivalents, internationally speaking. Inconceivable. Oh wait…ok maybe I don’t know what the hell they’re thinking, but anyway back to the point…

The European big oil companies clearly understand that their social license to operate, to use an annoying phrase, is (at least in Europe) one blown out well away from being revoked. They are well aware that they are losing the PR battles and that energy usage patterns are shifting, so it is a clever tactic to get ahead of the curve, roll up the sleeves, and not unhypcritically start talking about the evils of carbon emissions. The word brazen does spring to mind… And of course they didn’t flat out shoot themselves in the foot, their statement singles out the use of coal as the best place to make a serious dent in greenhouse gas emissions. Rightly so; coal is dirty to burn and is used extensively around the world, and thoroughly coincidentally none of the big European energy companies have any material coal business.

There is an undeniable logic and sensibility to the notion that multinational oil companies need to be held accountable for decades of global buffoonery. Since the beginning of the oil industry, multinational oil companies have trampled all over the earth like elephants in a petting zoo, with not much regard for all the flattened baby goats laying around. The whole problem is part of the capital markets vicious circle that they chose to participate in, where short term growth is all that matters and the environment being (until recently) just another cost center. At any rate, sincere or not, the big companies are at least starting to put their weight behind efforts to move away from the unsustainable system they had a large hand in creating. We are hooked on oil and will be for a while yet, but any transition to the fuels of the future will need the support of these behemoths that control much of the fuel infrastructure.

1 Comment

  1. Bruce Malcolm says:

    A few years ago BP stressed in paid media that BP meant “Beyond Petroleum”. When you are ashamed of what you produce maybe more than a name change is in order. (I assume they weren’t abashed at being British.)

    Like

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