OGCI Draft Report: Bad Science, Full of Holes

OGCI Draft Report: Bad Science, Full of Holes

Sunday September 22, 2019

The Oil & Gas Climate Initiative does not represent a serious effort to address the climate crisis, and is nothing but a greenwashing effort. 

NEW YORK CITY — CEO’s from the world’s largest oil companies are gathering on the sidelines of the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City this week to release a report, ‘Scaling Up Action: Aiming for Net Zero Emissions.’ But according to climate experts, the report is light on details, full of holes and contradictions, and high on obfuscation. 

Listed below are responses to the top-line announcements listed in the Oil & Gas Climate Initiative’s (OGCI) report. Experts are available for interview. 

The Oil & Gas Climate Initiative does not represent a serious effort to address the climate crisis, and is nothing but a greenwashing effort. 

The Oil & Gas Climate Initiative’s five-year effort to move oil majors toward a meaningful transition of the energy system has clearly failed. Exxon, BP, Equinor and other OGCI members consistently refuse to take responsibility for the emissions from burning the fuels they make, which represent the core problem at the heart of the climate crisis, and the overwhelming majority of these company’s contributions to global emissions. 

Oil majors — including OGCI members — are currently ramping up fossil fuel production, eclipsing other low-carbon efforts. 

Fossil fuel production is on the rise globally, in stark contrast to the climate goals outlined in the Paris Agreement, which require both oil and gas production to decline significantly. A new analysis set to be released in November finds that the world is on track to produce 50% more fossil fuels by 2030 than would be consistent with a 2-degree Celsius pathway, and 120% more than would be consistent with a 1.5-degree Celsius pathway. 

The OGCI report acknowledges that OGCI members have increased oil and gas production since 2017, but does not address this glaring contradiction with the climate goals outlined in the report. Recent analysis shows that oil majors — including OGCI members — are set to spend hundreds of billions of dollars more on exploration and extraction of oil and gas that the world cannot afford to burn, eclipsing symbolic ‘low-carbon’ efforts. 

The fossil fuel industry already has more than five times more carbon dioxide in their reserves than we can safely burn and keep global warming below 2ºC, yet continues to explore for additional reserves which cannot be burnt. The inconvenient truth for OGCI is that the only way to truly meet the Paris Agreement’s goals is to keep oil, gas, and coal in the ground. 

Carbon capture and sequestration, as touted by the OGCI, is a scam to delay action. 

‘Carbon capture and storage,’ cited heavily throughout the OGCI report, is an extremely expensive and immature technology, unproven at scale. Some energy experts have even called it a scam by an industry seemingly incapable of pivoting towards genuine zero-carbon alternatives like solar, wind, and battery storage. 

The report also names forest carbon as a potential source of so-called ‘negative emissions,’ but there are neither enough healthy forests to take up the necessary carbon, nor is it explained why the oil and gas sector should be allowed to claim negative emissions from these forests. 

The OGCI wants taxpayers to foot the bill for its mythical ‘carbon-neutral oil.’ 

While the OGCI touts its efforts to capture carbon dioxide, the industry’s plans hinge on using the captured carbon to extract even more oil. Adding insult to injury, members of the OGCI have aggressively lobbied for more fossil fuel subsidies in the United States to support this oil expansion strategy, in the form of tax breaks like Section 45Q tax credit.

Meanwhile, government support for oil and gas — including tax subsidies — remains unacceptably high thanks to lobbying and obfuscation from OGCI members, and allows a considerable amount of oil and gas production in the United States to be profitable when it would otherwise be uneconomical and lead to increased investment in low-carbon alternatives.

One of the OGCI’s only cited points of progress is highly disputed — methane emissions remain largely unaccounted for, and gas production must be phased out completely. 

The OGCI report highlights a 9% reduction in upstream methane emissions, but further evidence is needed of credible methane cuts across the supply chain. A recent Cornell University study finds a massive recent global increase in methane, and attributes much of the spike to the U.S. and Canadian shale oil and gas industries. The new, North American-led boom in liquified natural gas threatens to lock in decades of emissions and doom. Research has consistently shown that gas can no longer be considered a ‘transition fuel’, and that the only way to solve the methane problem and meet climate goals is to phase out gas entirely. 

Furthermore, the OGCI report appears to severely under-count methane, claiming that only about 0.3% of methane from oil and gas production is lost, whereas major, peer-reviewed studies put the actual amount of methane lost at well over 2%, many times higher. 

The OGCI report’s “cautionary statement” negates the entire remainder of the report. 

The OGCI report ends with a ‘legal disclaimer’ and ‘cautionary statement’ that put a major asterisk on the entire report, essentially negating its entire contents. The report concludes, “Actual results or outcomes may differ from those expressed in such statements, depending on a variety of factors.” Put plainly, this is an admission that much of what has preceded is nothing but empty rhetoric and greenwash. As the global carbon budget continues to shrink, it’s worth emphasizing that the climate only cares about reality and actual results, not feel-good rhetoric. 

Today The Lofoten Declaration - Phasing Out Oil and Gas Production for a Safe Climate and Strong Economy which has been signed by over 530 organizations spanning 76 countries was also released. Signatories are demanding governments and industry commit to phase out fossil fuel production and accelerate the transition to clean energy and other low-carbon solutions. The declaration calls on high-income economies that benefitted from fossil fuel extraction and are historically responsible for significant emissions to lead. Learn more at www.lofotendeclaration.org.

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Tzeporah Berman, tzeporah@stand.earth +1 604 313 4713