Once upon a time I toiled in the oil patch and it was good to me. I worked for Shell Canada and the royal pectin paid well, provided excellent benefits and training, and offered ample opportunities for advancement. I made lifelong friends and was proud to be helping folks heat their homes and drive their cars. An all-around good experience.
Eventually however, after I had gone on to other things, I came to recognize that the industry had its downside. Its products were responsible for warming up the globe, for setting humanity on a potentially catastrophic course.
The industry knew this but ignored the science and propagandized against changing course. Nonetheless, ever optimistic, I continued to hold on to a slim shred of hope that the industry I had once been part of would find its conscience and convert to sustainable energy.
There were encouraging signs. A number of oil companies began shifting towards renewables.
Royal Dutch Shell PLC aimed at spending $2–$3 billion a year on its Renewables and New Energy Solutions and planned on cutting its oil production by one to two percent per year for the rest of the decade.
BP claimed that rapidly growing its renewables business was core to its strategy and aimed at rapidly increasing its renewable generating capacity globally through its investments in wind and solar.
Here in Alberta a group of tar sands companies formed the Pathways Alliance, a consortium committed to net-zero by 2050.
Now the largest tar sands company, Suncor Energy Inc., seems to be having a change of heart. According to its new CEO, Rich Kruger, formerly of Imperial Oil, son of ExxonMobil, the company has been too focused on the energy transition and must get back to an oil-centred business strategy. “We have a bit of a disproportionate emphasis on the longer-term energy transition,” said Mr. Kruger. The company has exited the renewables business, last year selling off its wind and solar assets while increasing its presence in the tar sands.
Suncor is following the examples set by its foreign brothers. Shell has recently abandoned its plan to cut oil production and announced that it would not increase its investments in renewable energy this year. BP has scaled back its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Now it seems it’s all about focusing on the short term and the quick buck.
The companies began to show some responsibility, but then Putin invades Ukraine driving up oil prices and the companies are all over it. The invasion did indeed show that relying on Russian energy was bad policy, but the alternative should be greater haste to go green, not to retreat into more fossil fuel use and more greenhouse gasses.
As Greenpeace Canada climate campaign head Laura Ullman put it, “It’s hard to understand how anyone who has seen the absolute devastation of this summer’s fires, floods and (oilsands) leaks could continue pushing for the expansion of fossil fuels.” Hard indeed. I write these words under smoke-filled skies.
I thought at one time that even promoters of the oil industry would come to their senses once the evidence of global warming was before their eyes. But apparently the only green the oil industry can see is the green of money.