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A helpful exercise for staying lucid while working constantly with climate and energy is trying to imagine how precisely the same problem you’re working on would be treated if it were in any other profession.

Here’s an example. Companies extract and sell fossil fuels, which are later burned by their customers, creating the problem of climate change. The first step, extraction and sale, creates emissions, but nowhere near as much as the final step, when the product is burned. Fossil fuel companies are are now focusing on the smaller part while largely ignoring the bigger part.

In a previous post for LobbyWatch, I tried to imagine how this would be received in other industries. “Is it safe to smoke at a tobacco farm? Are on-site buildings at an asbestos mine made out of asbestos? Are lunch breaks at the bullet factory filled with hootin’ and hollerin’ and wild firing of pistols into the air? Is it meaningful when a company that produces something that damages human life refuses to use that thing in the process of producing it?”. …


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The world’s worst manel. Via OGCI

The oil and gas industry is, as you might expect, struggling to come to terms with the prospect of its own demise. As producers and transporters of two of the key things that cause climate change, their days are numbered. They are coping with this in a variety of ways.

Some, like BP, are taking initial steps into this transition. Others, like ExxonMobil or Chevron, remain with their feet planted firmly in the hardcore denialism and delay of the past several decades.

Quite a few major players on this spectrum are members of the “Oil and Gas Climate Initiative”, OGCI, formed in 2014 as a collaborative effort between the major fossil fuel producers to try to bend and twist climate action into something that either delays the transition or, ideally, reverses the demise of fossil fuels. …


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In part 1 of this series, I explored the smattering of local, city-level battles being fought between those seeking to electrify their homes and the fossil gas industry in America. As the gas industry truly loses the fight to become a ‘transition fuel’, they’re retreating to homes and buildings as a place to make their stand, and in many instances in the US, they’re winning.

In Australia, ‘existential threats’ are already emerging. Recently, Canberra lifted the legislation that made it mandatory to connect new gas to homes. …


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The Door To Hell — a burning gas crater

Every attempt to weave a narrative of our different possible climate futures share this single and extremely important commonality: the best-case outcomes involve eliminating fossil fuels. Coal, oil and gas.

As coal and oil suffer their own setbacks, gas has quickly become the last great hope for fossil fuel companies. Of the trifecta, it’s often seen as the best chance for extending the lifespan of a dying industry.

The gas industry is not starting in a strong position. The old forecasts of perpetual fossil growth are long gone. And the old idea that we must ‘bridge’ the transition using fossil gas is in its death throes. The latest report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), highlights the fact that far more emissions reductions occur switching from fossil fuels to renewables, than from switching from coal to…


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It is 2020. Climate impacts are no longer predictions; they are descriptions. Wildfires in Australia and California, floods in Bangladesh, countless other daily news reports. These impacts are beginning to accelerate, but so are efforts to properly detach fossil fuels from human existence.

Just in the past week, California just announced a ban on the purchase of fossil cars by 2035. China has sent shockwaves around the world by announcing a net zero by 2060 target. General Electric announced it will stop making parts for coal plants.

Promises aren’t sufficient, and each could end up as platitudes rather than progress. Decarbonisation has plenty of catching up to do, and it’s still far behind, but some of these runners are accelerating and gaining ground. …


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1908 coal machinery

Is it safe to smoke at a tobacco farm? Are on-site buildings at an asbestos mine made out of asbestos? Are lunch breaks at the bullet factory filled with hootin’ and hollerin’ and wild firing of pistols into the air?

Is it meaningful when a company that produces something that damages human life refuses to use that thing in the process of producing it?

In climate, and in particular, in the space of shareholder activism, this is not an unfamiliar moral and ethical question. A company divesting from a harmful product while continuing to produce that product is an improvement from a baseline of ‘terrible’, but at the same time, that is used to mask or distract from actions could be more effective. …


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Over the 2020s, the prime undertaking of climate action in the world of electrons was making zero carbon technologies like wind and solar cheap, popular and the default option for construction regardless of ideology.

After years of sweat, grit and work from activists, engineers, community groups, businesses and policymakers, the replacement for pollution-heavy power is ready. Wind and solar are now the default option for new electricity generation, and can be integrated neatly into the grid at very high levels, with plenty of research underway to go from ‘high levels’ to ‘everything’. …


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As individual consumers, we each feel we have relatively little impact on the shape of the entire energy grid. It is relatively true — we’re each one of millions, and we can contribute, but we can’t pull the levers -at least not in the way big players can.

Aluminium smelters consume incredible quantities of electricity. They are truly power hungry and owned by large companies, and therefore wield disproportionate power in energy grids around the world.

Here’s a neat example: Rio Tinto’s Tiwai Point aluminium smelter in New Zealand (it consumes 13% of the country’s electricity) is being threatened with shut down because the company is demanding a massive reduction in operating costs through subsidised electricity prices. This type of power play is pretty common, but what makes it interesting is that the plant is fuelled by a nearby hydro power station, making it nearly zero emissions. …


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An aerial shot of gas wells in the US. Credit: Flickr, Beyond Coal and Gas

Nothing is quite as simple as the molten core of climate action: leaving carbon in the ground, instead of pulling it out and forcing it into the sky, where it traps heat and kills people and cities and societies. It is a simple and urgent maxim. We know it is being badly ignored.

“Between 2020 and 2024, the oil and gas industry plans to sink USD 1.4 trillion into new extraction projects. This would lock in 148 gigatonnes of cumulative carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to 1200 new US coal-fired power plants”, found a December 2019 report led by Oil Change International. …


If you don’t believe in love at first sight, you will after you look at this recently published diagram produced by a group of climate researchers in Europe:

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Discourses of climate delay” by Lamb et al

As we have discussed before on ACCR’s Lobbywatch, climate delay has become the mainstay for fossil fuel protectionism, rather than climate denial. …

About

Ketan Joshi

Anecdata analysis, research, writing, caffeine. Science, tech and data communications professional in Sydney.

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