US industry groups have given a frosty response to the International Energy Agency (IEA)'s pathway to net zero report, deeming the plan little more than wishful thinking without realistic objectives.


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In its report, released on Tuesday, the Paris-based agency said “there are no new oil and gas fields approved for development in our pathway” to the world reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

That provoked a sharp response from the American Petroleum Institute (API), which said the IEA’s plan would lead to a massive deficit in energy supply in comparison to demand.

The API also said that the roadmap set out by the IEA is currently impossible.

“IEA itself regularly acknowledges that half the technology to reach net zero has not yet been invented,” API vice president of corporate policy Stephen Comstock said.

“Any pathway to net zero must include continued innovation and use of natural gas and oil, which remains crucial to displacing coal in developing nations and enabling renewable energy.”

The National Offshore Industries Association (NOIA), which represents US offshore producers, recently announced its support for the aims of the Paris climate treaty.

NOIA said the IEA's roadmap placed efforts to reduce global warming ahead of all other needs of the global population.

“Climate and emissions solutions need to balance the environmental, social, economic, and energy needs for society. These needs are correlated, progress in one cannot come at the expense of another need.

"The US energy sector, especially the offshore, provides a strategic advantage when trying to balance society's needs,” NOIA President Erik Milito said.

“The IEA is trying to establish a cost-effective and economically productive pathway to net zero. It is an ambitious task but partnering with the offshore energy sector would be a strong step towards a lower carbon future.”

Troubling concept

The IEA proposal met with a particularly disapproving response in Texas — the nation’s largest oil-producing state and home of the Permian basin — where the idea of a global organisation setting mandates on how countries or independent companies should operate was given short shrift by one industry body.

“The concept alone is troubling,” said Karr Ingham, vice president of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers. “This is forcing the opinion of an elite few on the rest of us.”

While the IEA may have economically strong countries like the US in mind when it discusses banning future oil and gas development, Ingham said it would not be developed nations who would suffer most if such a plan were put into effect.

Instead, he said, it would be developing nations who have yet to enjoy the benefits brought about by fossil fuels.

“You can argue that we’ve reached the end of the road (for fossil fuels) and it’s time to go the other way, but that takes away from our neighbours the advantages that we’ve already enjoyed,” he said.

“It’s also the greatest contributor to developing and maturing economies and a raised standard of living in places where fossil fuels have been used to power an economy. That’s not even an arguable point.”

The idea that the entire world would be willing or able to make such an abrupt change, Ingham said, is naive. A long-time economist, Ingham believes the IEAs plans will mean significantly increased energy prices for every customer across the globe — something that is infeasible at best.

“It means nothing less than transforming the global energy economy from what it is and has been to a vision for the future. Forced transitions are almost always unsuccessful,” he said.

“Those who propose to implement this plan simply lack the economic knowledge to do it.”

The idea of a global entity forcing the decisions of companies in the US — and Texas in particular — was described by Ingham as “coercion”. That concept, he said, will have a difficult time finding a receptive audience.

“This is, ‘you play by my rules. You change your behaviour to meet my ideas of what your behaviour should be,’” he said.

“When I see groups talking about changing future behaviour, I turn and run the other direction.”