Dec 11, 2019 - Energy & Environment

Big Oil lobby showing subtle shifts on climate change

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The American Petroleum Institute is now supporting the ambitions of the Paris Climate Agreement and, separately, technology for capturing carbon dioxide.

Why it matters: These are subtle but important shifts reflecting the oil and natural gas industry’s reluctant and uneven embrace of climate change as a problem the government should address.

Driving the news:

  • On the Paris deal, spokesperson Ben Marter said, "API supports the ambitions of the 2015 agreement, including global action that reduces emissions and alleviates poverty around the world.”
  • When asked whether API supports the deal’s primary ambition to limit Earth's temperature rise to well below 2°C within this century, Marter said by phone: "Even though the technology does not yet exist to get us there, our companies are investing billions to get us there."
  • On carbon capture, Marter said API is lobbying for legislation pending in Congress that would encourage more of the tech.

The intrigue: Given that API is the largest and most diverse oil group, its public policies must encompass the views of its most progressive members, led by European producers, and its least progressive, such as many smaller, domestic producers and refiners.

Between the lines: The trade group is walking some fine lines here, including…

  • It doesn’t say that it supports the Paris deal itself, but the ambitions of it. That’s a subtle distinction made likely to distance itself from the extreme reductions in fossil-fuel emissions the deal implicitly calls for.
  • Current API CEO and president Mike Sommers hasn’t commented much (if at all) on the Paris deal publicly. His predecessor, Jack Gerard, made general statements about the need to address climate change when asked about the Paris deal.
  • API did not take a position on the expanded tax credit law for carbon capture when Congress was debating it a couple years ago and ultimately passed it early last year.`

One level deeper: When it comes to a carbon price, an API official says it only comments on specific legislation.

  • The group is reviewing a measure introduced by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), that would tax CO2 and return the money to citizens, according to that official.
  • That contrasts with the Natural Gas Supply Association, which publicly backed a generic carbon price last week. NGSA is far smaller and represents only producers of natural gas, the cleanest fossil fuel that would be poised to gain on such a policy priced at low to medium levels.
  • A carbon price is considered a key policy component to cutting emissions that’s nonetheless politically toxic with nearly all Republicans (and some Democrats).

What I’m watching: How Sommers handles this topic and questions about it at the group’s annual luncheon early next month.

Go deeper: Industry lobbying rifts over climate change growing

Go deeper

10 energy and climate issues to watch in 2020

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

From presidential politics to China to oil prices, here’s what I’m watching this year.

The big picture: A few key decisive moments this year will help determine whether concerns over climate change — rising since my last two annual outlook columns — will translate into action that would transform our global energy system.

Go deeperArrowJan 6, 2020

Microsoft, House GOP reflect split-screen America on climate change

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Microsoft is pushing aggressive goals to tackle climate change while simultaneously supporting House Republicans' more modest efforts on the matter.

Driving the news: On Thursday, Microsoft announced its new pledge to become carbon negative in 10 years, while earlier in the week its president, Brad Smith, expressed support for House Republicans’ far narrower efforts on climate.

Go deeperArrowJan 17, 2020

Microsoft vows to become "carbon negative" by 2030

Photo: Pedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Microsoft vowed Thursday to be "carbon negative" by 2030 and announced new plans to fund emerging technologies and methods that pull CO2 directly from the atmosphere.

Why it matters: Those plans and other climate efforts Microsoft rolled out are perhaps the strongest among Big Tech companies.

Go deeperArrowJan 16, 2020