The cover story in The Economist this week is titled “Crude awakening – The truth about Big Oil and climate change.” It comes in the wake of the introduction by a group of new Democratic Congress members of a proposed “Green New Deal” to tackle climate change.
When I began my career some forty years ago the effect of carbon emissions on the earth’s climate was not a matter of concern. The focus was on cleaning up our water and air – under the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. And those acts have had a big impact on our environment. Although burning fossil fuels contributed to air pollution and pollution from fossil fuels has been greatly reduced, the emissions regulated and reduced did not include carbon dioxide, which was not considered harmful to the environment. Remember catalytic converters? They have greatly reduced emissions of harmful chemicals, but not CO2.
The world has now come to the realization that climate change is real. A poll by Yale University late last year found that 73% of Americans agree. Extreme climate events in recent years have contributed to that change of opinion.
Yet the world’s dependence on fossil fuels is not receding. World demand for oil continues to grow by about 1-2% a year. CO2 emissions in the US, the second-largest polluter on the planet, are now rising again. ExxonMobil says that global oil and gas demand will increase by 13% by 2030. It intends to spend more than $200 billion over the next seven years to develop its reserves. Continue reading →