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Critics Pan Fossils’ 10-Year, $1-Billion Carbon Fix as ‘Drop in Ocean’, ‘Smoke and Mirrors’

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The world’s 10 biggest oil companies are receiving few applause for committing US$1 billion over a decade for a small suite of climate measures, including plans to staunch methane leaks blamed for raising the climate impact of natural gas to the same range as coal.

The members of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) are a who’s who of fossil giants, including BP, Shell, Total, Pemex, Saudi Aramco, and Statoil. Collectively, they produce one-fifth of the world’s petroleum. Their announcement was timed to coincide with the entry into force of the Paris climate change agreement.

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The new fund will focus on three areas: reducing methane leaks, an ongoing bane of natural gas production, collection, and distribution networks; trying to achieve affordable carbon capture and storage; and increasing internal combustion engine vehicle efficiency. It will “not support the renewable energy, smart grid, and storage technologies” that compete with fossil energy, the companies stated.

Methane releases from natural gas production and distribution are a leading [4] climate [5] threat [6]. The three North American leaders focused on methane reduction [7] as a key outcome of a summit earlier this year.

The fossil announcement seemed pale by comparison. “Analysts called the sum a ‘drop in the ocean,’” The Guardian reports, “which showed the companies were not serious in tackling global warming” but more interested in “greenwash”.

Dispensed over a decade, the $100 million in annual investment “represents just 0.1% of the companies’ current level of yearly capital expenditure” to discover and develop more climate-disrupting petroleum. 

Nonetheless, OGCI Chair and BP CEO Bob Dudley—whose personal annual income exceeds his company’s contribution to the planned fund, The Guardian notes—insisted that “we all absolutely realize the world will move to a low-carbon world. Don’t worry, we got it.”

“Outrageous filibustering from an industry with no future,” scoffed 350.org’s Danni Paffard, who dismissed the fund as “smoke and mirrors.”

“Real climate action means leaving oil, coal, and gas reserves in the ground, and until they do that nobody will be falling for this cynical PR spin,” the climate campaigner added.

“The business models of these companies are fundamentally incompatible with the Paris climate commitments,” commented Jonathan Marshall, energy analyst at the UK’s Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit think tank. “This announcement shows that oil and gas companies are contemplating no real deviation from their traditional business models.”