Story at a glance
- Leaders in the oil and gas industry are gathering in Houston for the 23rd World Petroleum Congress, an international industry conference.
- The CEOs of Chevron, Exxon and Saudi Aramco all spoke about the role oil and gas should play in the future as countries attempt to pivot to clean energy.
- One report predicted that carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels is likely to increase by almost 5 percent in 2021 compared with last year, hitting 36.4 billion tons.
Leaders in the oil and gas industry are pushing back against the idea of moving away from fossil fuels too quickly while also trying to cement their role in the transition to clean energy.
After President Biden and global leaders gathered in Glasgow, Scotland, last month to address the climate crisis and made pledges to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the World Petroleum Congress is being held in Houston, where titans of the oil and gas industry are arguing that fossil fuels aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Amin Nasser, CEO of Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil producer, spoke at the conference and said a continued investment in fossil fuels was necessary and that the transition to clean energy, “overnight,” was “deeply flawed,” according to CNBC.
Nasser argued that a quick transition to clean energy could cause uncontrolled inflation and social unrest, inadvertently thwarting the plans of countries around the world to meet their emissions targets.
“I understand that publicly admitting that oil and gas will play an essential and significant role during the transition and beyond will be hard for some, but admitting this reality will be far easier than dealing with energy insecurity, rampant inflation and social unrest as the prices become intolerably high, and seeing net-zero commitments by countries start to unravel,” said Nasser.
Mike Wirth, CEO of Chevron, also encouraged oil and gas companies participation in the journey to clean energy.
“Oil and gas continue to play a central role in meeting the world’s energy needs, and we play an essential role in delivering them in a lower carbon way. Our products make the world run,” said Wirth.
Wirth may be right, as one report predicted that carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels is likely to increase by almost 5 percent in 2021 compared with last year, hitting 36.4 billion tons. It also speaks to a recent move by Biden, who announced the U.S. would tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and release 50 million barrels of gas in an effort to lower the recent rise in consumer gas prices.
At the same time, calls to move away from fossil fuels have been growing, with the International Energy Agency recommending the immediate pivot away from fossil fuel supply projects and no further investment decisions in coal plants to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
The United Nations Emissions Gap Report also warned that the world needs to halve annual greenhouse gas emissions in the next eight years to avoid catastrophic changes to the Earth’s climate.
The comments from oil and gas companies are also a stark reality against recent moves in the White House, with a portion of Biden’s Build Back Better infrastructure plan including historic climate provisions. The plan includes a set of incentives, investments and tax credits that would encourage businesses and consumers to use renewable energy sources, like solar and wind, over fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal.
Climate change and the oil and gas industry remain at a complex crossroads, and for Nasser the solution seemed clear.
“While there may be pushback on my remarks today, I know that if we do not speak out as an industry, no one else will on our behalf,” Nasser said.
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