Despite the Contradictions Involved, We Must Give Up Oil
This week produced a spectacular batch of news highlighting the many contradictions we face as we embark on the greatest technological transition in our history: the move away from fossil fuels.
Shell, one of the largest oil companies in the world, was forced by a Dutch court for reduce emissions much faster than originally predicted: 45% by 2030, with the court arguing that the company’s decarbonization goals were inconsistent with the Paris Agreement.
The news, which could (and should) trigger a wave of similar cases around the world, coincides with increased pressure on the boards of directors of two other of the world’s largest oil companies, the American Exxon and Chevronsome of whose shareholders are demanding faster responses to the climate emergency, rather than simple greenwashing.
The oil industry will find it increasingly difficult to ignore social pressure to reduce emissions. We are facing a fundamental change, the end of the oil agewhich could lead to has a financial crisis among companies dedicated to the exploitation of a resource that is still far from being exhausted, but whose exploitation is becoming increasingly unprofitable. Over the next thirty years, 80% of the oil industry is set to disappear.
Until now, the lies of the oil companies, whose contribution to the climate emergency had been concealed for many yearsallowed them to move towards increased production, but that now seems less and less likely. Again the Biden administration supports the Willow project in Alaskathat would produce 100,000 barrels of oil a day for 30 years at the price of one permafrost zoneas well as an impact on fish, reindeer and polar bear populations, while seriously undermining the credibility of the environmental objectives that had been a fundamental element of his electoral program. Without surprise, the dirtiest of industries does dirty politics.
Meanwhile, Tuesday, the international energy agency published a report with a clear roadmap for the global energy sector in which he call all countries to immediately suspend project approvals for new coal-fired power plants and oil and gas projects, as well as rapidly phase out fossil-fuel vehicles if they are to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.
And in Australia, a court has ruled that the state has a duty to protect younger generations from the climate emergency after a lawsuit was filed by eight teenagers and an octogenarian nun seeking to halt a planned coal mine expansion, in another case that could (and again, should) soon be replicated in other countries.
The combination of technologies that involved the exploitation of fossil fuels and the internal combustion engine brought enormous economic progress to mankind for many decades, but we now know at what cost. Abandon the use of fossil fuels and leave behind an industry that we have long subsidized and financed to prevent the economy from coming to a standstill, is absolutely essential, as impossible as it may seem today, because the true cost of these fossil fuels is actually much, much higher.
It is possible, and also essential, to make this transition: the world should be powered exclusively by renewable energy by 2030. They are a long time the cheapest optiondespite selfish myths disseminated by the oil industry and its lobby, and they might just be enough to cover all our needs.
It is time to put an end to the contradictions.