Hi and welcome back! My column today is the latest in an ad hoc series I've been pursuing that scrutinizes big oil companies' shift on clean energy and climate change (I've profiled Exxon, BP and Equinor, formerly Statoil, too).
I'll share a glimpse of that and then Ben Geman will you get up to speed on the rest.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Royal Dutch Shell, one of the most aggressive global oil and gas producers on clean-energy and climate change, faces big tests on how serious it is with its pursuit.
Why it matters: The burning of fossil fuels sold by Shell and other producers is a big reason Earth’s temperature is rising, yet their products are also foundations of the global economy. Whether you love or hate them, the role these companies play is inherent to addressing climate change, particularly in the absence of U.S. presidential leadership on the issue.
Driving the news: Shell is set to complete a review of its membership in trade associations in April to determine if they contradict the company’s positions supporting action on climate change.
The big picture: Shell, the world’s second-largest publicly traded oil company after ExxonMobil, has over the past year ramped up enough investments and commitments in this area to surpass any other producer similar in size.
In response to investor pressure, the Netherlands-based company announced plans in December to set short-term targets linked to executive pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the products it sells, not just from its operations.
“Shell is the only company in the industry that has been willing to cross that philosophical divide and actually set a goal for reducing emissions that it doesn't directly control. Product emissions are typically eight to 10 times the size of operational emissions at an integrated oil and gas company.”— Andrew Logan, oil and gas program director, Ceres
Reality check: The company’s shift has not been matched by lobbying dollars in Washington, D.C. , raising doubts about how serious the company is about its clean-energy pursuits.
“If you don’t have government policies that are enabling the transition to happen it’s probably very hard to deliver on the world-class investment case.”— Mark Gainsborough, executive vice president, Shell
Go deeper: Read the whole column here.
Senate Democrats running for president are touting their support for the Green New Deal in early primary states, but are casting it as more of a call-to-arms than a policy platform.
Why it matters: Recent appearances suggest that the announced candidates are seeking to simultaneously...
Sen. Amy Klobuchar said at a CNN town hall in New Hampshire last night, “The Green New Deal is so important right now for our country. We may not have agreements on exactly how it will work and when we can get it done.”
Sen. Kamala Harris said at a weekend New Hampshire event that climate change is an "existential threat."
Sen. Cory Booker, in a recent interview with an Iowa NBC affiliate, compared the climate challenge to the moonshot.
The big picture: Republicans see a political opening in the plan — which is co-sponsored by nearly a half-dozen candidates — and its troubled rollout earlier this month.
Escalating trade wars could limit the United States' rise as an oil and natural gas exporter while further boosting renewable energy use in some countries, BP's latest long-term energy outlook finds.
Why it matters: Surging shale production — combined with growing LNG and crude export infrastructure — is making the U.S. a player in global export markets. The Energy Department sees the U.S. becoming a net exporter in 2020.
But, but, but: BP's report, which is part of its annual, wide-angle look at the global energy system over the next 3 decades, models a scenario in which global trade disputes persist and worsen.
What they did: BP's report contrasts this "less globalization" scenario with their "evolving transitions" (ET) case, which sees national policies, tech development and other forces continuing in a way that's consistent with the recent past.
What they found: Russia's exports are crimped, but the effect on the U.S. is even greater. "By 2040, US oil and gas exports in the ‘Less globalization’ scenario are around two-thirds lower than in the ET scenario."
The intrigue: Greater protectionism would slow down U.S. demand growth for renewables compared to the ET scenario as the country uses more of its domestically produced fossil fuels.
Amazon: The company announced an initiative called "Shipment Zero" yesterday that aims to make half its shipments with "net zero" carbon emissions by 2030.
Honda: The automaker, citing the shift toward EVs, announced plans Tuesday to close a U.K. manufacturing plant that employs 3,500 and will also cease manufacturing Honda Civic sedans at a Turkish plant that's remaining open.
Equinor: Per Reuters, "Norway’s Equinor SA on Tuesday said it plans to explore for oil in deep waters off the coast of South Australia in late 2020 and released a draft environmental assessment for the project to head off community protests."
Kern River Oil Field in Bakersfield, Calif. Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images
Axios Expert Voices contributor Amy Myers Jaffe sizes up Saudi Arabia's recent announcement that it's cutting oil production by 500,000 barrels per day.
It comes just weeks after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said “U.S. friends in the Middle East” would compensate for the drastic decline in Venezuelan oil production driven by U.S. sanctions.
Why it matters: Although U.S. production continues to rise, it still accounts for only 11% of global consumption, compared to OPEC’s 32%. The recent supply cuts illustrate that sudden disruptions and U.S. sanctions that take oil out of the market can put OPEC, and Saudi Arabia specifically, back in charge of global oil prices.
Background: The U.S. economy is 60% less oil-intensive than it was in the 1970s, with virtually no oil used in electricity generation and limited quantities in manufacturing.
Yes, but: The transportation sector — with 350 million liquid-fuel cars on the road — has made little progress reducing its overwhelming dependence on oil-based fuels. That means Americans remain susceptible to the effects of an oil-price shock.
Go deeper: Read the full post.
Myers Jaffe is director of the program on energy security and climate change at the Council on Foreign Relations.