“Saudi oil minister: ‘Fossil fuels doomed, we’re switching to solar,’” read the headline in the Melbourne Herald Sun.
“Saudi Oil Minister Says World Can’t Abandon Fossil Fuels,” replied the Wall Street Journal.
The strange thing was that both publications were covering the same panel presentation last week by Saudi Arabia Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi.
In a Reuters report, the Herald Sun had al-Naimi envisioning an end to fossil fuels around 2040 or 2050. “We recognize that eventually, one of these days, we are not going to need fossil fuels,” he said, “so we have embarked on a program to develop solar energy…hopefully, one of these days, instead of exporting fossil fuels, we will be exporting gigawatts, electric ones. Does that sound good?”
Not so good, apparently, to the WSJ, which led with: “Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said on Thursday that he sees a great future for solar power but that the world can’t abandon fossil fuels in the short term.”
Keith Stewart, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada, saw the duelling headlines as a matter of time frames.
“It’s the difference between watching a bunch of kids playing soccer and Wayne Gretzky playing hockey,” he told The Energy Mix. “The WSJ is right now. Reuters is where the puck will be in 2040.”
Stewart said the Wall Street Journal report reflected the “collective action problem” with unburnable carbon, where fossil fuel companies react to impending carbon constraints by seizing the opportunity to develop their resources while they can.
“If you’re an investor interested in the next quarter, that’s probably good enough,” he said. “If you’re a government or corporate planner thinking about what’s best in the long run, irrespective of any concern about climate change, you should be looking at how you’re going to get out of the fossil fuel business and into the renewable energy business.”