Since 1800, worldwide consumption of fossil fuels has increased 1,300-fold. Access to this cheap energy has lifted people out of poverty and catalyzed economic growth, wealth creation and healthier living environments. So, the fossil fuel industry must be remarkably profitable, right?
After all, if renewables like solar and wind were competitive in a free market, would we not have switched over by now? Wouldn’t the top of the Forbes Global 2000 be stacked with clean energy companies instead of oil and gas giants?
It sounds reasonable that market forces make fossil fuels our energy source of choice. The reality is quite different, however. Oil and gas companies are better at procuring government subsidies than generating profits. That has led investors to overestimate the fossil fuel industry while leaving clean energy innovations underfunded. It seems like we give companies important to the energy transition “just enough capital to fail.”
Until we unrig the playing field, clean energy will struggle, and your tax dollars will perpetuate climate change. There is little time left for action, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that without major reductions in CO2 output by 2030, the Earth will suffer severe and irreparable damage.
Human civilization needs to become carbon neutral. But has anybody seen a realistic plan for that? What stands in the way of unhooking ourselves from cheap fossil fuels?
A Subsidy Transition for the Energy Transition
Today, your tax dollars pay fossil fuel shareholders and help western oil and gas companies compete with state-owned enterprises from the Middle East. That’s a daunting task when you consider that the cost to extract Saudi oil is a multiple lower than for any of its rivals. Even so, state-owned Saudi Aramco wants out of the industry for fear of stranded assets. They hope that western pension funds will buy them out in the upcoming IPO. That begs the question: how profitable is the fossil fuel industry?
Michael Crothers is the president of Shell Canada
In the wake of a divisive federal election pitting environment against economy, we need a new conversation about energy – a conversation about how Canada can provide energy for citizens, harness our natural resources and do its part to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
That’s what an executive with Shell, a multinational energy company, would say, isn’t it? As a middle-aged, white, male Calgarian, I tick all the boxes for someone a climate activist would dismiss. However, hear me out – in the same way, I continue to listen and learn from the perspectives of others, such as Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg.
What drew me to the energy business is its fundamental importance. Access to affordable energy, produced in an environmentally and socially conscious way, remains one of the greatest opportunities and challenges of our time. I’m proud to work for Shell, where we believe heightened awareness of climate change is a good thing and agree urgent action is needed.
I think Canadians live at the precipice of this challenge in a country blessed with natural resources. What unites us is our shared love of nature and our shared use of energy to move around, to heat and light our homes and manufacture the products we rely on.
However, the recent debate pitted Canadians against each other and led us to believe we can’t have both a strong economy and action on climate change. Discussions left those worried about our climate feeling as though a swath of Western Canada is indifferent to their priorities. Meanwhile, roughly half a million people that work in the energy sector feel abandoned, despite the care for safety and environment they practice on the job.
Party under pressure on the climate crisis as Corbyn says the leadership can not be trusted
The Conservative party’s record on tackling the climate crisis was condemned by leading scientists and former government advisers on Sunday, as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn warned the forthcoming election was the last chance to halt the escalating emergency.
Experts accused the Conservatives of copying rightwing politicians in the US by deliberately weakening environmental protections. Meanwhile, new analysis by Labour reveals environmental policies put forward since 2017 and opposed by the Tories would have led to emissions reductions of over 70m tonnes a year by 2030 – more than the annual emissions of Portugal.
The climate emergency has become a key battleground in the election, with Labour promising a transformative green industrial revolution, the Liberal Democrats pledging to spend billions on the crisis and the Conservatives announcing a pre-election moratorium on fracking and pledging to plant 30m trees a year by 2025.
On Sunday, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Conservatives could not be trusted on the environment.
“This general election is our last chance to radically change course, or face the threat of a hostile and dying planet,” he said. “The science is clear, we don’t have time to waste.”
Fossil Fuel leases totaling hundreds of thousands of acres have been suspended as courts rule against the BLM for ignoring climate impact.
The Trump administration’s relentless push to expand fossil fuel production on federal lands is hitting a new snag: its own refusal to consider the climate impacts of development.
The federal Bureau of Land Management’s Utah office in September voluntarily suspended 130 oil and gas leases after advocacy groups sued, arguing that BLM hadn’t adequately assessed the greenhouse gas emissions associated with drilling and extraction on those leases as required by law.
The move was unusual because BLM suspended the leases on its own, without waiting for a court to rule.
Some environmental advocates say it could indicate a larger problem for the bureau.
“It is potentially a BLM-wide issue,” said Jayni Hein, natural resources director at the Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU School of Law, which has been involved in similar litigation in other states. “It could have the effect of suspending even more leases across the West, and not just for oil and gas, for coal as well.”