Bill Luyties, OWOE Technical Editor: There is no doubt that the world needs oil and will continue to need it for some time while the transition to renewable energy plays out. There is also little doubt that that burning of fossil fuels and associated carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere have contributed greatly to the current crisis that is global warming (see 97% of active climate scientists agree). Examples of the impact on the world’s climate are all around us – from the record-breaking temperatures around the world, to the forest fires in Canada, California, Spain, Greece, and Hawaii, to the melting glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctic and rapidly rising sea levels. So, where does Big Oil fit into this ongoing transition? The last several years have seen Big Oil, which has been the source of much of the public misinformation about climate change, pushing the narrative that they will be part of the solution. How is that going?
In December 2022 the US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Accountability issued a report (since deleted) documenting how Big Oil companies are “greenwashing” with claims that they embrace clean energy even though behind closed doors they dismiss the effort and plan to continue fossil fuel investments. And Figure 1 shows a comparison by DW (Deutsche Welle) from 2021 of Big Oil’s public messaging containing green claims versus the percentage of capital expenditures within their total yearly budgets. Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell are relatively similar in their efforts to greenwash the public.
Let’s look more closely at Shell Oil Company, a company that I spent 30 years working for at the start of my career. I can’t deny that those were some of the best years of my career working on cutting-edge technology and projects to develop deepwater oil and gas reserves around the world. But the world has changed dramatically in the years since I left Shell as the impact of burning fossil fuels has become better understood, and the early fears of “climate alarmists” have become a sobering reality. For a while I believed that companies like Shell were making progress towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and funding and developing green energy technology.
In 2021 Shell surprised activists and investors by committing to a number of steps in the short term to reduce its carbon footprint for the production of oil, and in the longer term to embrace green energy. Under the leadership of former CEO, Ben van Beurden, Shell announced its target “to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, in step with society’s progress in achieving the goal of the UN Paris Agreement on climate change”. This included reducing emissions from operations and from the fuels and other energy products they sell to their customers as well as capturing and storing any remaining emissions or balancing them with offsets. It also included transforming the business by providing low-carbon energy such as charging for electric vehicles, hydrogen and electricity generated by solar and wind power. And then, Van Beurden was replaced at the beginning of 2023 by Wael Sawan, who had been the director of integrated gas, renewables and energy solutions. To much of the outside world, the choice signaled that Shell was not just moving forward but taking a leading role in the energy transition.
My was that wrong!
Within 6 months of taking office, Sawan announced a scaling back of its targets to reduce its carbon footprint, a shift back to focus on oil and gas production, a paring back of investments in renewables, and a reorganization to eliminate any global focus on renewables. This was driven by shareholder pressure to focus on oil and gas as the most profitable businesses. Shareholder income would be sharply increased, capital expenditure would be reduced, and money saved would be used to buy back stock shares.
Even before this abrupt change, Climate Action 100+, an investor-led initiative to ensure the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters take necessary action on climate change, rated 171 companies that are key to driving the global net zero emissions transition. Based on publicly disclosed information as of May 2022, Shell was given a mixed review. However, one area in particular, Item 6.1, Capital Alignment – The company is working to decarbonize its capital expenditures – was scored as “No, does not meet any criteria”. Essentially, the company talked a good game but was making no effort to align its capital spending to what it was telling the world.
Shell and the rest of the Big Oil fraternity have neither acknowledged their role in climate change nor taken any meaningful steps to play a part in the solution. Their almost single-minded focus is on continuing to produce oil and gas, which they believe will make the most money in the short term. It does not matter how that will impact the planet and its eight billion people and what that cost to society will be. And it shows absolutely no vision regarding how an energy company might survive and even thrive in a fossil-free world. One can’t help but wonder about the parallels with the tobacco industry and whether Big Oil’s lack of responsibility will become legal liabilities in the future.
Once again, Big Oil stuns with its lack of vision and hypocrisy.
Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: There are a lot of peculiarities about Canada that foreigners do not understand and residents shamefully ignore. For one, Canada is one of the biggest money laundering countries in the world. Ask any person on the street about the dangers of corruption and he or she will point to places overseas, oblivious to the extensive graft in Canada. Graft and corruption exist at every government level and in every region of Canada. But the governments choose to overlook these things. Coupled with outright incompetence, Canada does not look good for common folks striving to make a better life.(more…)
Blog by Bill Luyties (OWOE Founder and Editor): Over the past few weeks, I’ve had multiple articles pop up on my news feeds that proclaim that an EV can cost as much to drive per mile as an ICE vehicle. These all appear to be based on an Anderson Economic Group report titled: Real World Cost of Fueling EVs and ICE Vehicles (2nd Edition), dated April 2022 but apparently not issued until early 2023. One article headline actually shouts: Shocking study finds EVs cost more to fuel than gas cars in late 2022. While I generally feel that the Anderson study did a good job of trying to compare costs, the authors of these news articles ignore most of the study and focus on a single headline-grabbing finding that for mid-priced cars EVs cost about the same as ICE cars when charged at home, but cost more when using commercial chargers (see Figure 1). This may well be true today, but the Anderson study and these articles miss the real point – such a comparison is misleading and almost totally irrelevant for a number of key reasons.(more…)
Guest blog by Yumusbe Joacquin: Here are some interesting and somewhat offbeat energy stories that haven’t gotten much media attention over the past year.
Wind Turbines Causing Earth to Speed Up
In 2020 scientists noticed that the earth’s rotation had begun to speed up. Historically, the earth has been slowing down, primarily due to the drag created by the gravitation effect of the moon. The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) has been adding leap seconds every now and again to make up for the slower spin (which last happened on December 31, 2016). However, there were 28 days in 2020 where the earth actually spun faster than any time during the previous 60 years. And on July 26, 2022, the earth completed its quickest-ever spin with a rotation that was 1.50 milliseconds less than its nominal 24-hours.(more…)
Guest blog by S.A. Shelley: For some time, I’ve written in previous blogs that the world has gone nuts with respect to energy policies and proclamations. Too much emphasis is on a speedy , if not immediate, Green Energy transition that does not mesh with physical reality. Politicians are master tacticians but lousy strategists and while the world needs more green and renewable energy and associated products, the world is instead starting to see uncontrolled cost increases, supply chain bottlenecks, and increasing local opposition to energy salvation. Reality bites.(more…)
Blog by Bill Luyties (OWOE Founder and Editor): I had the opportunity and pleasure to visit the Floating Wind Solutions (FWS) 2023 conference in Houston, Tx, last week and thoroughly enjoyed the three days of exhibits, presentations, networking, and reconnecting with colleagues. This was the third annual FWS and by far the largest and best attended with close to 90 exhibitors and approximately 800 attendees. The mood of the participants was very upbeat, as floating wind has experienced a number of positive developments over the last year. While there are still key hurdles to overcome, the industry appears to be on the verge of taking off.(more…)
Guest Blog by S. A. Shelley: Welcome dear readers to another blog highlighting more energy follies. The world is a mess on several levels, with equity markets roiling, bonds markets churning and of course inflation running amok. Politicians at every level use every hurricane to announce that catastrophic climate change has arrived, and every excuse except fiscal imprudence as the sinister root cause for inflation (nytimes.com, nbcnews.com). We have Europeans still worrying about heat this winter and OPEC+ machinating oil prices. In response to OPEC+ moves, Washington intelligentsia responded by condemning OPEC while sidelining any effort to increase US oil production let alone finish the Keystone XL pipeline. In Europe, Germany has rapidly fired up previously shut down coal burning power plants, and citizens in Austria are scavenging forests for firewood (euronews.com, abcnews.com). In one panicked moment Germany has fallen back to fossil fuels and will once again pump more CO2 into the atmosphere than when it began its Energiewende. Perhaps the sudden new German energy plan is to accelerate global warming to prevent freezing of its populace?(more…)
Guest blog by S.A. Shelley: WARNING: Adult language and un-woke phrases are embedded in this blog.
Writing a good blog takes some forethought and planning. But sometimes, nay too often these days, so many politicians of all stripes are continuing to make horrendously dumb statements regarding energy matters that I feel compelled to write a rebuttal to something that Angela Merkle, the former German Chancellor, said last week.(more…)
Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, reported at 303 billion barrels in 2019 (BP Statistical Review of World Energy), and yet only produced 723,000 barrels per day (MBPD) in August 2022. In contrast, Saudi Arabia is a close second in total reserves at 298 billion barrels, produced 11 million barrels per day (MBPD) that month. That is, with essentially the same reserves, Saudi Arabia produces over 15 times as much oil. The history behind the collapse of the Venezuelan oil industry is a clear lesson of the failure to understand how to manage a critical natural resource in today’s complex, interdependent world economy. If we turn to Russia, before the invasion of Ukraine it was producing 11.3 MBPD and was the largest exporter of oil to the world’s markets at 7.8 MBPD in December 2021. About 60% of those exports went to European countries. Given the West’s determination to end its dependence on Russian oil coupled with the impact of Western sanctions on Russian finance and industry, it is not hard to see the collapse of the Russian oil industry and a new oil-rich but oil-dysfunctional country ensuing, one which we will start referring to as Eastern Venezuela.(more…)
Bill Luyties, OWOE Founder and Technical Editor: Last year OWOE published a blog titled “Don’t Blame the Suppliers. It was intended to help focus the narrative related to climate change from attacks on the supply side of the contributors to climate change, i.e., the big oil companies, to the demand side, i.e., consumers who want big cars and to buy lots of everything. However, since that time I have come across several articles published by the BBC: one published in 2020 titled “How the oil industry made us doubt climate change” and another published earlier this year titled “The audacious PR plot that seeded doubt about climate change“. These articles document the efforts of the fossil fuel companies to engage in a public-relations campaign to sow doubt in the science of climate change by following the playbook of the tobacco industry from several decades earlier. Thus, I would like to update the title of that blog to “Don’t Blame the Suppliers, Unless They Are Big Oil”.(more…)