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BP argues to continue burning oil and gas despite climate threat

During International Energy Week, Bernard Looney, Chief Executive Officer at BP, argued that more investment in the fossil fuel sector was needed in order to press on with a global transition to a cleaner future. 

His statement suggested that continuing to extract highly polluting fuels was necessary in order to gradually reduce demand for those fuels, rather than simple turn off the faucet. Without that process, a ‘just switchover’ would be impossible due to rapidly rising costs as supply falls off quickly before alternatives are ready or able to fully compensate. 

‘Reducing supply without also reducing demand inevitably leads to price spikes, price spikes lead to economic volatility, and there’s a risk that volatility will undermine popular support for the transition,’ Looney said. ‘We avoid that outcome by investing in today’s energy system, as well as investing in the transition.’ 

International Energy Week is one of the world’s largest and most significant fossil fuel industry conferences, and returned to the UK capital this year for the first time since the pandemic. In addition to a long list of names from the oil, gas, and associated sectors, the gathering at Mayfair’s Intercontinental Hotel was also host to Fossil Free London. Activists from the campaign group blocked doors and attempted to disrupt proceedings.

Part of Looney’s strategy – essentially continuing with business as usual – stems from a need to plug gaps created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which sent the price of energy skyrocketing last year due to significant issues in supply and distribution. However, critics have pointed out several flaws in his message. 

BP itself has previously trumpeted its increasing investment in green energy, which it says is beginning to replace oil and gas. Yet in 2019, the company endured a public shaming at the hands of a ClientEarth campaign (pictured) when it emerged just 4% of its investments went into clean, renewable projects. It’s also worth noting that the first year of the Ukraine crisis led to record profits for the firm, at £28bn, along with several other major fossil fuel giants.

Meanwhile, combustion emissions have consistently grown year-on-year since records for carbon and other greenhouse gases began, with the exception of 2020, when Covid-19 led to travel bans, reduced output and productivity. This relentless trend is a direct result of the business as usual approach  That said, 2022’s jump – with an increase of 33.8m tonnes – was significantly less than predicted, and is dwarfed by the nearly 2bn tonne rise in the previous 12 months. The increased speed at which new technologies, renewable energy sources, and low and emission-free vehicles have been adopted in the past five years may be responsible. 

Image: ClientEarth

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