The Angry Clean Energy Guy on a virus infecting sustainability: Big Oil are deliberately poisoning what sustainability means, diluting its impact and reach, and they are doing that in plain sight, borrowing the language and applying it to terrible initiatives and companies all designed to propagate our use of harmful fossil fuels and indeed increase it, rather than decrease it, when everyone knows we need to power the world with renewables as well as pretty much phase out our use of oil, gas and coal by 2050 – to have any chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Winner of the week: Asset managers Sarasin, for divesting from Shell while not mincing words. Villain of the week, Cargill, named “Worst Company in the World” by NGO Mighty Earth
Credit: Assaad Razzouk
Hi and welcome to Episode 16 of The Angry Clean Energy Guy with me, Assaad Razzouk. I am so happy you’re here. Thank you. A quick reminder, you can now find all my transcripts on my website, https://theangrycleanenergyguy.com/ and I hope you find these useful and helpful. This week I am going to rant a about a virus infecting sustainability: Big Oil is deliberately poisoning what sustainability means, diluting its impact and reach and I will show you how.
They’re doing that in plain sight, borrowing the green and sustainability space language, applying it to terrible initiatives in companies all designed to propagate our use of harmful fossil fuels and indeed increase it rather than decrease it – when everyone knows we need to phase out our use of gas, oil, and coal by 2050 and we need to power the world with 60% renewables by 2030 in order to avoid catastrophic climate change, which I guess oil executives don’t give a toss about.
I hope their families and children are listening to this podcast and talk some sense into them.
THE VIRUS INFECTING SUSTAINABILITY
sustainability is infected by a virus called Big Oil and it is not to be belittled or under estimated.
It’s producing hundreds, perhaps thousands of identical copies of the virus at an extraordinary rate. I’m not sure if anyone in the green space is keeping up. I certainly I’m not. In this episode, I will take you through this virus because I honestly cannot believe the scheming and sneaky stuff the oil mafia is up to smack bang in the sustainability space.
First, these viruses are being spread by an organism hiding in plain sight, the wonderfully named Oil and Gas Climate Initiative and all its members. You can find them at https://oilandgasclimateinitiative.com/ and let me name the members:
You’ve got Exxon, Shell, BP, Total and Chevron – all of climate obstruction, climate denial and bad lobbying fame.
You’ve got China’s CNPC, Italy’s Eni, Norway’s Equinor, Occidental Petroleum of the US, Mexico’s PEMEX, Brazil’s Petrobras, Spain’s Repsol and the big monster that is Saudi Aramco.
Here’s my advice to the members of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative. If you actually mean the crap on your websites and let me cite from Norway’s Equinor website:
“Can an oil and gas company be part of a sustainable energy future? We’re working actively to reduce climate emissions, put a price on carbon and benefit societies around the world. We aim to be the world’s most carbon efficient oil and gas producer and are investing actively in renewables”.
Yeah, right, Equinor. If you mean that, do it: Leave the Oil and Gas Anti Climate Initiative.
I’ll come back to the Oil and Gas Anti Climate Initiative in a moment but first I’m going to give you three examples of the dangerous virus infecting sustainability and the disgusting manipulation of citizens taking place out there by Big Oil.
Exhibit one is Shell Oil, starting this past April across the Netherlands (and scarily later in other countries) to give drivers at the gas pump the option to add 1 cent per liter of fuel when they fuel their car, which the company will then use to offset the carbon emissions of that gasoline.
According to Shell, the money will go towards buying carbon credits from nature-based projects, which is a bizarre code word for forests. But anyway, Shell says it’s investing $300 million over three years to make this happen and its PR machine has been making noise about that 300 million for many weeks now. Now Shell presents this as great because it, Shell, is allowing us, motorists, to drive carbon neutral, if only we agreed to pay 1 cent per liter, you know, and 1 cent per liter does sound very small, doesn’t it?
But I have news for Dutch drivers. Shell is ripping you off and its arrogance is breathtaking. Do not buy these offsets at the pump.
Let me tell you how Shell is ripping you off.
When you drive, a liter of gasoline emits two kilograms of CO2, so 500 liters emit one ton of CO2. When you pay a cent per liter, you’re really paying five euros per ton of CO2. I have been in this industry for a very long time and I can tell you there are so many things wrong here, it’s unbelievable.
First, they’re ripping you off big time. And the reason they are is because they’re paying no more than two euros for these credits, which they’re selling you at five euros. So that’s two and a half times their money right there. You know that alleged 300 million investment in forests, they’re selling it back to you for two and a half times what they paid.
Second, they’re pushing responsibility for everything they have ever done to you, the Dutch motorists to start with, and then to the lucky global motorists when they get around to it, instead of doing the decent thing, which is to invest in respectable projects that generate carbon credits with integrity, then retiring these carbon credits or in other words, buying them than cancelling them and therefore writing off what they spent on them to take responsibility for the damage Shell is inflecting on the world.
So instead of buying these carbon credits and retiring them and then coming to us, the consumer to say that they are trying even a tiny little to offset the damage they’re doing to our health and to our environment and to the entire planet and to everyone on it, people, animals and plants, they’re refusing to take any responsibility whatsoever. Then on top, instead of just stopping there, they want to rip off anyone driving a gasoline car worldwide. I mean the arrogance and lack of morals and of basic decency are breathtaking.
What Shell should do instead is really simple. The carbon credits it buys should be at no extra cost to you, the motorist, and from an accredited organizations that support environmental projects with integrity around the world. There are many of those. So Shell, you must do the right thing. Stop ripping off motorists, stop selling them carbon credits at a two and a half times mark-up that you should be retiring instead yourselves.
But I have a feeling this will take a while.
So meanwhile I have a message for Dutch motorists and all other motorists being offered offsets by their friendly, dirty gas supplier: Don’t buy them. They are ripping you off several times over and laughing all the way to the bank, together with their well-oiled (pun intended) and disgustingly well funded public relation machines.
Exhibit two is Calysta, the company I spoke about in Episode 15. Calysta is a company that says it produces protein for fish, livestock and pet food. It says that “natural gas is pumped through a fermenter, and the microorganisms, from naturally occurring microbes found in soil, metabolise the gas as their sole source of energy, producing a high-protein biomass”
Now that sounds lovely except I have one huge problem with it: BP is pretending to care because what it’s really doing is finding an outlet for its natural gas. Calysta could do what it’s doing very easily by taking methane out of waste and biomass and actually therefore helping the environment and stopping that methane from going up into the atmosphere and making climate change worse, but no. BP wants to displace all that methane that Calysta could be using out of waste and biomass and replace it with the methane from its dirty natural gas instead, just to make sure it can keep producing more and more harmful gas to fry us all.
Meanwhile, though it can hide behind Calysta and its management team can make grandiose pronouncements about how they’re backing a novel solution to help get the world on a sustainable path and all sorts of nonsense like that, when BP knows exactly what it’s doing, which is exactly the opposite. It’s actually helping get the world faster on an unsustainable path.
Exhibit three of the virus is the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, which really should be renamed immediately as the Oil and Gas Anti-Climate Initiative, and some of its investments. So if you look at their website, you’ll see that allegedly it’s taking practical actions on climate change (because of course all the rest of us are just innocent and take impractical actions) and allegedly the Oil and Gas Anti-Climate Initiative members leverage their collective strength to lower the carbon footprint of energy, industry, and transportation value chains via engagements, policies, investments and deployment, and armed with at least a billion dollar war chest.
But take a closer look at what the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative is actually doing with its money. Their website lists 12 companies which they have backed. They categorize them into “recycling carbon” or “reducing carbon” or “reducing methane leakage”. I took a look at each investment and what I found, I have to say, is no surprise at all: Every one of these investments, every single one, is made with the sole purpose to perpetuate oil and gas use forever under the cover of efficiency.
I mean, that’s just plain horrible and they’re not hiding it. It’s all there in plain sight behind beautiful words.
For example, a company backed by the Anti-Climate Initiative is called Achates Power. Allegedly, they’re a developer of radically improved internal combustion engines that increase fuel efficiency, reduce greenhouse gases and costs less than conventional engines. Yes, but they’re still internal combustion engines fired with Big Oil’s oil and gas. In other words, that is serious rear-guard action. Serious rear-guard action to protect oil and gas exploration and production disguised as doing something good and it’s all to slow down our move away from polluting cars and trucks and buses to electric vehicles. I mean, it’s so obvious what they’re doing, but they have no shame at all. It’s all on a website pretending.
it’s a virus infecting the sustainability space and we have to push back.
Another example of a company backed by the oil and gas anti climate initiative is Clark Valve, which is developer of valves that fight fugitive methane emissions. Now I love that one. It’s great that somebody is making valves that stop methane emissions, but the whole premise of this investment is to make sure Big Oil can continue to dig holes to generate gas even though they, and we, know they must stop. Investments such as this one allow them to pretend that they, too, have sustainability credentials when in fact they are nothing but: This investment is nothing but yet another virus created to infect sustainability.
I would encourage you to take a look at https://oilandgasclimateinitiative.com/ and check for yourselves. Then, when you see what Big Oil is really up to – and the best I can describe is to infect sustainability and green efforts globally with a lethal virus to kill them, basically – do something, starting with never buying any carbon credits from any polluter.
There are signs of change.
Just in the last 10 days or so, the head of OPEC, for example, actually stated publicly that he was being asked about some of his colleague’s children are asking them about the future because they see the protests against oil and gas on the streets.
A British institution called the National Trust divested and it was swiftly followed by two others.
BP made an announcement acknowledging that some of its oil will never see the light of day.
The Shell boss, pretending, said net zero is the only way to go. Words, words, words.
Oil and gas became a dirty word in a rebranding of the FTSE stock exchange index.
And finally the Financial Times started highlighting shorting opportunities starting with hydrocarbon projects.
So it’s not all bad out there, but we have to call a spade a spade and oil and gas hiding behind words such as sustainability and efficiency to propagate the use of oil and gas forever is something we have to push back hard against
THE ECONOMIST ESSAY COMPETITION
On another note, the Economist magazine is a holding a youth essay competition on climate change. I would be grateful if you help spread the word (and no, I’m not getting paid for this).
The youth essay question is “what fundamental economic and political change, if any, is needed for an effective response to climate change”? “What fundamental economic and political change, if any, is needed for an effective response to climate change”? It’s a very relevant question at a critical time.
The Economist competition is open to people between the age of 16 and 25 and your deadline is 31 July. They will publish your winning essay and you will be invited to their annual idea summit all expenses paid. Good luck.
WINNER OF THE WEEK: Sarasin & Partners
My winner of the week is asset managers Sarasin & Partners for cutting their stake in Shell and announcing it publicly a few days ago, but more importantly for this strong and direct and honest quote. They said: “It cannot be in the interests of the millions of people whose long-term savings are invested in your company for you to produce fossil fuels in such volume that planetary stability is threatened.”
Now, why would Sarasin & Partners say that? Simple. It’s because Shell is hiding behind words and taking anti climate, rear guard action wherever possible. And in addition, Shell is publicly committed to spending $30 billion a year, each year, forever, to retain – according to them – the longevity of their fossil fuel portfolio. Now that’s at the exact same time as the world is on fire and it’s getting worse
VILLAIN OF THE WEEK: CARGILL
Now, even with all that, this week Shell isn’t even my villain of the week. The villain of the week is Cargill. Cargill is one of the largest companies in the world. It’s also the largest privately held US company and it’s a very big agricultural concern. Now they are my Villain of the Week because an NGO with the wonderful name of Mighty Earth named them as “the worst company in the world”, and they did that while accusing them of unscrupulous business practices and environmental destruction.
The chairman of Mighty Earth is former Congressman Henry Waxman. Now I’m going to quote from what he said:
“The people who have been sickened or died from eating contaminated Cargill meat, the child laborers who grow the cocoa Cargill sells for the world’s chocolate, the midwesterners who drink water polluted by Cargill, the indigenous people displaced by vast deforestation to make way for Cargill’s animal feed and the ordinary consumers who’ve paid more to put food on the dinner table because of Cargill’s financial malfeasance, all have felt the impact of this Agri business giant and their lives are worse for having come into contact with Cargill”.
Strong words indeed, Congressman Waxman. Cargill, you are so much better than this. Get your act together and stop acting like a monster.
Thank you all for listening. Don’t hesitate to reach out via my website, https://theangrycleanenergyguy.com/ and have a great week.
There is so much to be angry about, if you are a clean energy guy.
Every day, so many things that happen around the world make me angry when I look at them with lenses colored by the climate change chaos unfolding everywhere around us. And I am especially angry because I know we can solve the climate change crisis if we were only trying.
Each week, I will share with you a few topics that struck me and that I was very angry about – and this will generally have to do with climate change, solar or wind power, plastic pollution, environmental degradation, wildlife, the oceans and other related topics.