Carbon capture, a fig leaf for Big Oil
We cannot beat climate change without drastically reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. This means phasing out fossil fuels: coal, oil and fossil gas.
Like a tough thorny weed, the oil industry resists being clipped or tamed, but continues to grow. The profits of the major oil companies doubled between 2021 and 2022. These massive profits have largely gone to stock buybacks and shareholders.
In The US, the Biden Administration is backing industrial carbon capture schemes that overwhelmingly benefit Big Oil – bolstering their bottom lines and extending a PR lifeline that ensures they can continue polluting – all under the guise of climate action. These carbon schemes are expensive and extremely energy intensive. If powered by fossil fuels, they are counterproductive. And even if they are powered by solar, wind, geothermal, or nuclear energy, there is an opportunity cost: That carbon-free energy could have been used to displace coal- and gas-powered electricity instead, reducing emissions more than carbon capture plants can absorb.
Worse yet, the carbon dioxide pumped into the ground is often used to drive oil back out, which negates any benefits of carbon capture, and uses tax dollars to subsidize oil production. This uses government funding to increase emissions rather than remove them.
Companies like ExxonMobil are using tax incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act to fund CCS projects, a so-called “climate solution” that in fact promotes oil extraction.
Carbon capture does not make it safe to keep burning fossil fuels.
What Big Oil Is Actually Doing
Shell recently renounced its plans to cut oil output, and it raised its dividend. BP’s share prices surged when the company walked back its plan to reduce oil and gas output. Shareholders seem to like oil profit driven dividends.
The Biden administration has encouraged energy companies to produce more oil to keep gasoline prices in check. The I.E.A. projects that oil and gas use will continue rising through the end of the decade.
The oil industry has become adept at "greenwashing" - marketing that gives the impression that they are acting for the good of the climate, while their overall business remains linked to dangerous levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Their lobbyists have money to spend to influence lawmakers and the press.
Numerous top news organizations — including the Times, Politico, and The Washington Post — have pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars from ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, and organizations such as the American Petroleum Institute to create the companies’ advertorials. Result: the fossil-fuel companies’ claims of good corporate citizenship are supported by respected news organizations.
Some greenwashing strategies:
- Promoting methane gas as clean energy.
- Pushing anti-electrification disinformation campaigns.
- Hyping dirty hydrogen.
- Touting Carbon Capture as a Silver Bullet.
Good news: Amsterdam has banned fossil fuel ads from its metro! No more ads for petrol-powered rental cars or cheap airline tickets.
The city of New York has filed a lawsuit against oil companies Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, and the American Petroleum Institute, alleging they misled consumers about the connection between their products and climate change.
"Badvertising" is a campaign to stop adverts fuelling the climate emergency. This includes ads for cars, airline flights and fossil fuels.
We need to watch out for devious claims whose purpose is to prolong the life of a doomed, nefarious industry.