OPINION: With the 23rd World Petroleum Congress bringing together oil and gas executives from around the world, there seemed to be a disconnect between what US supermajors are telling us about their commitments to the energy transition and what other executives felt about the strong ambitions of US and European governments.
Even in energy transition-specific sessions, speakers focused on evolutions within oil and gas that have been the subject of conversation for decades, such as enhanced oil recovery and the role of natural gas as a transition fuel.
As a young journalist trying to navigate the energy sector and understand the future of the industry, my biggest job is to learn what leaders in oil and gas think about the trajectory of their companies.
News of oil and gas producers getting involved in carbon capture, hydrogen and renewable energy comes across my desk daily. Conversations with industry experts led me to believe the industry had, as a whole, moved in the direction of supporting some sort of transformation in the industry, as long as they see that it can be profitable and that skills from the existing workforce are transferable.
During a US congressional inquiry, oil and gas chief executives did not deny that climate change is an existential threat to the world, and pledged to advocate for low-carbon policies and climate policies.
But many comments at WPC leaned against the oil and gas industry getting involved with energy-transition technologies, and in some cases, downright denounced the use of renewables entirely. The energy industry at times seems disconnected from the high ambitions of the US government, even more than usual.
It begs the question: Do the US supermajors leading the progress in the energy transition truly believe, or care, that they’re making a difference, or are they simply announcing such partnerships to curry favour with a liberal government?
Moving forward, leaders of the industry need to be honest with us, each other, the public and the government if we want productive conversations to find common ground in policy and regulations.
Especially for younger generations who will be in charge of making these decisions in the future, companies do them a disservice if they deprive them of honest opinions, and if talk about the energy transition resorts to war metaphors and hate toward the other side.
Jonathan Chavez, founder of SocialSphere, a public opinion research and consulting firm, said during the Congress that the public has a very nuanced view of the energy industry, and wants to understand the complexity of the sector, and therefore the complexity of global energy solutions.
While there is no doubt that fossil fuels have changed the course of humanity for the better, reducing the future of the industry to the accomplishments of its past takes away from progressive conversations that can be beneficial to all parties.
Anyone who understands even a little about the energy industry knows that fossil fuels will be around for a long time to come, so why is this idea still being used as rhetoric against any sort of energy transition?
The public knows that oil and gas has brought us a long way, but it’s time to think about where the industry will take us. No more rhetoric, tell us what you really think.
(This is an Upstream opinion article.)