Big Oil fuels the Climate Campaign
Written by William Walter Kay BA LL B
“Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” E. Hoffer (1967)
Big Oil is a driver and beneficiary of the Climate Change campaign.
(“Big Oil” herein refers to eight Western-headquartered multinational oil and gas companies: ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Equinor, Eni and Total.)
Big Oil is conflicted about the Climate campaign which, after all, began as a petroleum phase-out initiative. This petroleum phase-out, however, ambles along while the campaign’s coal phase-out sprints forth. The main consequence of the coal phase-out, i.e. the switch from coal-fired to gas-fired electricity generation, has already blessed Big Oil with a trillion dollar windfall; and is only half completed.
Big Oil braces for the petroleum phase-out with investments in bio-fuels, multi-fuel service stations and electric vehicle charging points.
Big Oil companies and associations explicitly endorse the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) hypothesis and laud the Paris Climate Agreement. They play crucial roles in promulgating CAGW; and they are the chief lobby compelling implementation of CAGW mitigation policies.
The 1978 US Power Plant and Industrial Fuel Use Act prohibited construction of gas-fired power plants. Natural gas was deemed too precious to squander on generating electricity. Provisions mandating conversion of existing gas-fueled plants to coal were repealed in 1981. The overall Act fell in 1987. Thereafter new power plants were supposed to be coal-convertible; however land set-asides for coal yards went un-imposed.
The Power Plant and Industrial Fuel Use Act escalated the coal-gas feud. (The decade also witnessed an “acid rain” campaign targeting coal-fired electricity.)
Between 1978 and 1988 gas’s share of US electrical generation shrank from 14% to 9%. Coal’s share grew from 44% to 57%.
While CAGW indisputably has Franco-German pedigree an American fifth column was not long in forming. DC-based Climate Institute (CI) was the first NGO with “Climate” in its name. CI’s principals (Crispin Tickell, John Topping and Stephen Schneider) are CAGW legends.
CI’s founding 1986 conference and its 1988 North American Conference on Preparing for Climate Change were co-sponsored by the American Gas Association, American Petroleum Institute and several Big Green NGOs. These confabs laid the groundwork for America’s climate campaign.
Fast-forward 30 years: Climate Leadership Council (CLC) launches with a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal (June 20, 2017). CLC fuses Big Oil (ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Shell, Total et al) with Big Green (Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy and WWF). CLC partners with the World Bank’s Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition. CLC’s sole aim is a carbon tax which they propose start at $40 a short ton and increase thereafter. CLC’s blueprint won endorsements from the editors of: New York Times, USA Today, Financial Times, Barron’s, Bloomberg and Washington Post.
Back in 2010 the Washington Post revealed BP had given The Nature Conservancy $10 million. This shouldn’t have surprised because:
“…the giant oil company and the world’s largest environmental organisation long ago forged a relationship.”
The article further revealed: a) Conservation International took $2 million from BP and welcomed BP’s CEO onto their board; b) Environmental Defence Fund joined BP and Shell in Partnership in Climate Action; and c) 20 enviro-NGOs and energy firms joined BP’s American Wind and Wildlife Institute.
Like all supermajors, ConocoPhillips funds enviro-partnerships. Their Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation project provides scores of scholarships and bankrolls 12 courses attended by 200 undergrads. ConocoPhillips won the St Andrews Prize for the Environment.
ExxonMobil donates $3 million a year to enviro-groups; far more than they ever gave CAGW sceptics.
After 30 years of Big Oil/Big Green climate collusion US electricity is 32% gas-fired; 30% coal-fired. As 93% of US coal burns for electricity, US coal consumption wallows at a 40-year low.
This coal phase-out sweeps the West. Between 1987 to 2017 coal’s share of OECD electricity generation fell from 43% to 28% while gas’s share rose from 9% to 28%. (Solar and wind sprang from 0 to 10%.)
According to Big Oil, gas displaces coal through fair competition and the “war on coal” is a myth – nonsense. One study compared 6 gas-fired plants with 10 nearby coal-fired plants, all owned by Xcel Energy. The highest cost coal plant produced cheaper electricity than the lowest cost gas plant. Coal is dying from regulatory strangulation.
US electricity purchases (residential, commercial and industrial) total $400 billion a year. Across Europe and the Anglo-sphere electricity fetches $1 trillion a year. This will double by 2040. For hydrocarbon-fired electricity fuel is a major cost. Through Big Oil’s gaming carbon regulations gas could capture 60% of the electricity market. The stakes are humongous!
Pitching carbon taxation globally are groups like We Mean Business – a coalition of 832 companies (including Eni, Total and Equinor) with combined assets of $17 trillion. All members:
“…are committed to the Paris Agreement and its goal of limiting the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 C...”
World Sustainable Development Business Council’s more exclusive membership roster includes: Total, Shell, Eni, Equinor, ExxonMobil and BP. The Council’s website is a CAGW mitigation collage.
Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) emerged in 2014 with Total as a founder. BP and Shell joined in 2015. ExxonMobil, Chevron, Eni and the state-owned giants joined soon after. OCGI’s several projects have one overarching goal:
“OCGI member companies are dedicated to the ambition of the Paris Agreement to progress toward to net zero emissions in the second half of this century.”
OCGI aims to “accelerate low-carbon solutions” (i.e. gas-fired electricity). They have collectively invested $1 billion in methane capture (i.e. research and development on valves and sensors).
The gas lobby is ancient, enormous, consolidated, wealthy and climate savvy.
Founded in 1918, American Gas Association (AGA) promotes natural gas usage and defends the gas industry. From its DC headquarters AGA represents hundreds of firms – climate warriors all:
“Natural gas is an important tool in the suite of greenhouse gas emissions reduction options available to the US. Natural gas will continue to benefit our nation as states move further to reduce carbon dioxide emissions created in electrical power production.”
Natural Gas Supply Association (NSGA) represents 11 large firms (Equinor, Total, BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell et al). NSGA was founded in 1965 to “encourage the use of natural gas.” NGSA’s climate reports recommend: a) improving access to gas fields; b) subsidising gas turbine research and development; and c) increasing carbon capture and storage funding.
NSGA off-shoot, Center for Liquid Natural Gas argues that because gas is climate-friendly, gas exports should increase.
Natural Gas Council is a partnership of 5 associations representing thousands of firms that produce and deliver US gas. Partners include American Petroleum Institute (whose 625 members employ 10 million Americans) and Independent Petroleum Association of America (whose members own 90% of America’s 500,000 gas wells). NGC prepares detailed reports on how much each proposed climate bill might impact gas sales.
Natural Gas Vehicles of America is funded by AGA and firms like Waste Management, Bluebird and UPS that seek incentives to convert their fleets to natural gas. (America’s 165,000 natural gas vehicles are supplied by 2,000 Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) outlets. Europe has 3,400 CNG outlets).
These oil and gas associations and companies spend on average $140 million a year lobbying Congress. Their federal campaign contributions average $80 million a year. DC is home to 676 oil and gas lobbyists of whom 432 are former employees of federal agencies and/or congressional offices. Big Oil outspends King Coal by a factor of twelve.
Numerous articles decry gas lobbying at the state level. Gas lobbyists spend $10 million a year in Pennsylvania alone. Legislators describe the pressure as “constant” and the sight of gas lobbyists inside the Capitol building as an “everyday” occurrence.
Meanwhile in Brussels, the gas industry spent $115 million lobbying the EC in 2016. Exxon and Shell each contributed $5 million. Europe’s 1,030 gas lobbyists are spread across 79 PR companies, law firms and think tanks. As in DC, a revolving door separates EC officials from gas lobbyists.
Premium lobbying targets are: EC Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy (Miguel Canate) and EC Vice President for Energy Union (Maros Sefcovic). Between November 2014 and August 2017 gas lobbyists held 460 meetings with these two officials and/or their staff. Canate, a former oil company president, is notably collaborative.
Atop Europe’s gas lobby are the big producers: Gazprom, Shell, Equinor, BP and Total. Their customers are also politicised. These include the European Chemical Industry Council (Dow, BASF, Solvay and INEOS) who use gas as a feedstock for chemical and plastic manufacture. Utilities like EDF, Engie, and Enel also exert pressure; as do turbine manufacturers GE and Siemens. Most visible is GasNaturally – an alliance of 6 associations (Eurogas, Gas Infrastructure Europe, European Gas Research Group, Technical Association of European Natural Gas Industries, International Association of Oil and Gas Production, and Natural and Biogas Vehicle Association).
GasNaturally’s Manifesto of the European Gas Industry (2018) repeatedly references the Paris Agreement. Its core exhortation:
“Deploy natural gas to displace, wherever possible, coal in power generation and heating, while integrating variable renewable electricity.”
The Manifesto calls for research, development and investment into: bio-gas, bio-methane, methane emission reduction, carbon capture and use, and gas-to-hydrogen technology. The Manifesto beseeches policymakers to view Europe’s existing gas network as the backbone of Europe’s future energy system. The Manifesto demands retail fuel stations go multi-fuel. It maintains that switching shipping fuel to LNG lowers emissions 25%. It contends European gas deposits could meet 50% of Europe’s needs for 25 years.
Another key player, European Network for Transmissions Systems Operators for Gas (ENTSOG) eschews the label “lobbyist.” Every two years ENTSOG submits an infrastructure wish list to Brussels hoping some items will be designated Projects of Common Interests (PCI). Projects with PCI status receive legislative, logistical and financial support from various governments. EC’s Connecting Europe Facility annually ladles $1.5 billion to gas and electricity projects unable to attract private investment.
Currently, 77 gas pipelines, hubs and LNG facilities enjoy PCI designation. Ongoing PCIs include gas pipelines connecting: Azerbaijan to Italy; Algeria to Italy; Cyprus to Greece; and France to Spain. Eleven PCIs are LNG terminals. Other PCIs build hubs for an EU-wide gas market.
Gas lobbyists claim European energy security will be assured via: multiple sources of gas; multiple ports of entry; and a pipeline latticework allowing gas to stream throughout the continent.
Europe is being locked into 50 years of dependence on gas imports.
Big Oil sinks $4 billion annually into renewables.
Total’s solar division is 30 years old. In 2004 Total purchased Tenesol – a leading solar panel manufacturer and installer. In 2011 Total spent $1.4 billion buying 60% of California-based PV manufacturer SunPower; which then went on a buying binge of its own. Total owns 25% of PV manufacturer Novacis. Total owns and operates 5 solar farms. In 2016 Total bought specialty battery manufacturer, Saft ($1 billion).
Total began investing in bio-fuels in 1994. Their La Mede refinery produces 500,000 metric tonnes of bio-diesel annually.
Since 2008, Total has invested $200 million a year into renewable energy start-ups.
In 2017 BP purchased 43% of Lightsource. The refurbished Lightsource BP is one of Europe’s largest developers and operators of utility scale solar farms. BP’s co-ownership of 11 US wind farms makes BP one of America’s largest wind power producers. BP’s Clean Energy subsidiary extracts bio-gas from municipal waste for use in corporate vehicle fleets. BP’s Brazilian plants distill 776 million litres of ethanol from sugar annually. BP partners with DuPont on a corn-to-butanol venture.
Chevron owns 2 solar farms and co-owns 5. They also own a wind farm and a geo-thermal project. Chevron, a bio-diesel distributor, is planning a cellulose bio-fuel venture with forestry giant Weyerhaeuser. Chevron also invests in solar-to-steam enhanced oil recovery technology.
In 2009 ExxonMobil invested $600 million in algae-derived bio-fuels. Despite setbacks ExxonMobil’s recent literature indicates a continued commitment to algae.
Shell has a multi-billion dollar commitment to wind and biofuels.
Equinor owns several off-shore wind farms.
Big Oil is ahead of the curve regarding what could be the climate campaign’s greatest coup: electric vehicles (EVs). (EV refers to fully electric and hybrid vehicles.)
Annual global EV sales surpassed 1 million in 2017. Toyota will soon offer 10 EV models. By 2040 annual EV sales may hit 60 million.
BP predicts that 85% of the world’s 300 million EVs in 2040 will be hybrids. Given a projected increase in the overall number of cars, oil sales will continue to rise, although oil’s share of the fuel market will fall.
BP is equipping its 18,300 retail stations with EV chargers and is marshaling a fleet of mobile chargers.
Total recently purchased G2 Mobility – a pioneering EV charging station provider. Financed by the French government, G2 situated its 10,000 charging points mostly alongside municipal government buildings.
France installed 11,000 EV charging points last year; Germany: 4,000.
European energy firms used their renewable investments to capture solar and wind power associations; steering them to a pro-gas stance.
Pre-2012 European Wind Energy Association’s (EWEA) 19 directors mostly represented national wind associations. Post-2012 fifteen directors represented manufacturers and utilities, including several gas-involved firms (Iberdrola, EDF and Enel). EWEA’s public dreams of a 100% renewable Europe dissipated in 2013. EWEA dropped demands for binding commitments and lowered its 2030 renewable goals to 30%. In 2016 EWEA rebranded as Wind Europe.
In 2013 Total execs became President and VP of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA). By 2015 five of EPIA’s eight directors represented energy and chemical firms. EPIA rebranded as Solar Power Europe (SPE), purged staff, and dropped demands for high and binding renewable targets. SPE negotiators received orders from their President to declare gas-plus-renewables to be Europe’s saviour. SPE’s current boss (a former director of a gas-boosting PR firm) champions an SPE-Wind Europe-GasNaturally common front with one aim: kill coal.
Global Climate Coalition (GCC) formed in 1989 as a common front for firms, especially oil supermajors, nervous about the Climate agenda. Rumours of defections soon swirled. In 1994 Shell’s new chairman began preparing for CAGW endorsement and BP launched an Alternative Energy Division with solar power and gas-fired power departments. BP bailed from GCC in 1996 and months later declared CAGW a crisis. Shell embraced CAGW in 1997 and left GCC in 1998. Texaco split in 2000, announcing investments in geothermal. GCC was pronounced dead in 2002. The last major standing was ExxonMobil.
Greenpeace claims ExxonMobil, between 1998 and 2014, donated $31 million to 69 groups to spread “climate misinformation.” Greenpeace treats all ExxonMobil contributions to pro-market think tanks as climate sceptic funding. Only a small fraction of those contributions went to climate scepticism. Sceptic fortress, Heartland Institute, received $650,000 from ExxonMobil over 18 years.
Lee Raymond ran Exxon from the mid-1990s to 2005 when Rex Tillerson replaced him. Raymond, a climate sceptic, faced relentless pressure from activist shareholders (led by Catholic Orders and Rockefellers) to endorse CAGW. Tillerson caved in 2007 and reigned in sceptic funding. In 2010 ExxonMobil pulled funds from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center of Astrophysics where sceptic Willie Soon had found a podium.
At a recent meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Heartland Institute proposed a resolution calling on the EPA to withdraw its CO2 endangerment finding. ExxonMobil led the opposition to Heartland’s proposal.
ExxonMobil’s Energy and Carbon Summary (2018): Positioning for a Low-Carbon Economy promotes carbon taxation and the Paris Agreement.
Two ancillary Big Oil climate rackets involve fugitive methane and carbon capture and storage (CCS).
Methane is a greenhouse gas and a commodity. To any other merchants “fugitive emissions” would be called “spillage.” Firms should not need incentives to reduce spillage, yet this is what Big Oil’s climate activism achieves. Big Oil is “doing well by doing good.” In Chevron’s words:
“It is in Chevron’s business interest to minimise fugitive methane and to maximise the volume of natural gas that we commercialise.”
CCS consists of pumping CO2 underground. Pumping CO2 into oil reservoirs enhances oil recovery. Through climate activism Big Oil again wins subsidies and tax-breaks to engage in profit enhancing activity.
Gas propaganda stress four points:
- Gas-fired power plants start and stop quickly hence provide optimal back-up for intermittent renewables;
- Natural gas vehicles and power plants can burn bio-methane from municipal and agricultural waste;
- Natural gas vehicles emit 20% less CO2 per kilometer than gasoline vehicles; and
- Gas-fired electricity emits 50% less CO2 per kilowatt than coal-fired electricity.
Natural gas’s climate creds are bogus. According to the IPCC natural gas (CH4, methane) is 84 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2. The EPA claims it is 25 times more potent. Enviro-activists claim CH4 is 100 times worse than CO2; hence gas is “as dangerous for the climate as coal, if not more.”
Methane escapes into the atmosphere at every stage of the gas supply chain: drill holes, pipelines, ships, terminals, turbines, boilers and stoves. A 3% leakage from drill to turbine overwhelms whatever “global warming potential” reductions might accrue from replacing coal with gas.
Furthermore, the gas-wind-solar lobby also drives the nuclear phase-out whereby high-emissions electricity replaces zero-emissions electricity.
Welcome to Theatre of the Absurd’s – The CAGW Saga.
A crusade arises from manufactured hysteria over excessive greenhouse gas emissions. Crusaders vilify Big Oil as the source of atmosphere-polluting emissions and culture-polluting misinformation. Big Oil surreptitiously usurps leadership of the crusade; transforming it into a gas-wind-solar behemoth destined to monopolize electrical generation. Streets fill with furious youth determined to slay Big Oil by demanding implementation of an agenda crafted by Big Oil. The crusade’s triumph increases greenhouse gas emissions.
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