Fuel for Thought

How Will Oil Companies Adapt to Climate Change? 

Feb 16 2015 Comments 0

Climate change is one of the biggest controversies to sweep the modern world. At the same time, fossil fuels are what make the modern world go around. So what happens when the two super forces meet? According to leading British environmentalist Jonathon Porritt, it is ‘impossible’ for major oil companies to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable resources.

After years of fronting green energy projects for mega corporations such as BP and Shell, Porritt claims that his first-hand experience with the ‘painful journeys’ is what underpins his belief that climate change solutions and major oil companies simply cannot co-exist.

“We came to the conclusion that it was impossible for today’s oil and gas majors to adapt in a timely and intelligent way to the imperative of radical decarbonisation,” explains Porritt.

A lack of corporate integrity

Controversially, Porritt maintains that while green energy projects are commissioned and financed by major oil companies the final reports are not taken seriously. This observation comes from first-hand involvement with a BP Solar project that investigated the UK’s future market for solar power. While those involved in the project were upbeat and enthusiastic Porritt claims that BP and its senior executives simply didn’t want to know.

While company directors will claim the contrary, experts such as Porritt uphold that oil companies cannot, and will not adapt to climate change. He reveals that despite the fact that Shell and BP were deemed to be capable of carrying out operations ‘on a truly sustainable basis,’ neither are committed to an eco-friendly future. Renewables in a Corporate Social Responsibility context were allowed however any scheme that threatened the dominance of petroleum was immediately dismissed. Years later and the companies were still investing billions of dollars in hydrocarbon developments, with executives refusing to acknowledge the impending threat of climate change and depleted resources.  

Interim goals reign supreme

Despite the fact that the companies employ the best scientists on the planet, and the fact that their operations threaten global economic stability and the health of humankind, Porritt asserts that directors live in a world of denial, corruption and self-deception.

At the heart of the issue are the inherent short-term mandates of all major oil companies. A responsibility to please shareholders and dominate the market leaves companies with very little room to incorporate effective climate change solutions.

Solutions on the horizon?

This may be true yet experts argue that there are solutions. Minimising investment in future hydrocarbon projects and channelling capital into renewable energy technology could seriously boost the climate change combat strategies of major oil companies without jeopardising profits. 

So will the world’s major oil companies eventually quash their hydrocarbon hopes and commit to a renewable energy oriented future? Opinions are clearly divided and at the end of the day only time will tell how fossil fuel companies will adapt.

Your choices matter

Not a single day goes by without reports in the media about increasing CO2 levels, increasing temperatures and rising sea level resulting from global climate change. But what can we do? As is the case with most topics, there are several groups with varying interests and with differing claims of the causes and impacts of global climate change. In a recent article, we look at how your purchasing decisions can impact the environment. And – specifically – we looked at the products available for gas detection. For more information, read this article: How Green is Your Gas Detector?

Image Source: Oil Company Site
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