Kerry Challenges Oil Industry to Prove Tech for Climate-Wrecking Emissions
As the world grapples with the pressing issue of climate change, one of the most crucial topics remains the argument from oil and gas producers that they will soon have technology in place to extract the climate-damaging gases that make fossil fuels the main culprit in climate change. Many in the industry talk up technological breakthroughs that they say will soon allow the world to drill and burn fossil fuels without worsening global warming. However, U.S. Climate Envoy, John Kerry, believes the time is here for the industry to prove that they can make the technology happen at scale, affordably and quickly, to stave off climate disaster. And Kerry says he has “serious questions” whether it can.
The Ideal Solution
The ideal solution to climate change problem is a fast global switch to renewable energy, but oil and gas states and companies have a right to give their claim of technological rescue a try. However, if the industry is truly going to avert climate disaster, they need to prove that they can abate the emissions and capture them. Unfortunately, the technology is not at-scale yet, and we cannot sit here and just pretend that we will automatically have something we do not have today.
Oil and Gas Companies’ Bank on the Emissions Capture Technology
Globally, oil and gas companies are banking on the hope of technology that can one-day scavenge away most of the climate-wrecking carbon to stave off public and government pressure for the world to pivot faster away from fossil fuels and to solar, wind and other cleaner energy. Kerry said that if the companies can capture the emissions, “you may be able to make it economically competitive,” adding that he has some serious questions about whether it will be price-competitive.
The problem is that the technology needed to capture carbon dioxide remains limited in scale, costly and often energy-intensive in its own right. Although the technology to capture one major climate-damaging gas, methane, from oil and gas operations does exist and is awaiting investment to roll out at scale.
Actual Experience Vs Claims
The International Energy Agency, some national governments globally, and many climate scientists and advocates are adamant that while carbon-capturing technology will play a role, oil and gas production itself must be phased out. This is due to limited experiences in commercial-scale carbon capture projects “falling far, far short of the claims,” says David Schlissel of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis research group.
Schlissel believes that it is unwise to think that we can keep pumping CO2 and methane into the atmosphere, hoping to capture them at some point.
- The American Petroleum Institute Trade Group declined to comment
- An industry study group in 2019 called for heavy government funding to capture a quarter of current greenhouse gases within 15 years.
- The U.N.-sponsored climate talks meant to help keep countries on track to meet their pledges to cut emissions are being held this year in the United Arab Emirates
- The talks will be hosted by Sultan al-Jaber, the CEO of the Emirates’ state oil company, which is expanding drilling despite championing the climate cause
While carbon-capturing technology holds promise in the fight against climate change, globally, the ideal solution remains a fast transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy. Oil and gas companies must prove that technology exists to extract climate-damaging gases affordably, quickly and at scale to stave off climate disaster.
John Kerry’s challenge to oil and gas companies to prove that they can extract climate-damaging gases affordably, quickly and at scale is welcomed. In the fight against climate change, solutions are needed urgently. Carbon-capturing technologies hold promise, but a fast transition to renewable energy remains the ideal solution to avert climate disaster.