How Will Big Oil Climate Pledges Affect Alaska? Climate change commitments promise to reduce carbon emissions and invest in carbon storage.

Author:Friedman, Sam

A carbon-neutral oil company would have sounded like an oxymoron a few decades ago.

But in the last several months, two major companies announced ambitions to reduce their emissions and take steps to cancel out the effects of their remaining carbon footprint. They say their pledge applies to both emissions from producing fossil fuels and the emissions produced when consumers burn it.

First came Repsol, a Spanish oil company that owns dozens of North Slope exploration blocks and reported the Horseshoe well discovery near Nuiqsut in 2017. Repsol announced its net-zero carbon plans in December.

BP followed suit in February. BP made the carbon-neutral pledge only a few months after the company announced plans to leave Alaska, selling assets including the company's dominant share of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System.

The companies don't plan to stop producing oil, even by their 2050 deadline to become carbon neutral: they do, however, plan to focus on cleaner fuel sources.

The Quest for Low Carbon Oil

Back in the '90s and early '00s major oil companies fought efforts to regulate greenhouse gasses and disputed the connection between fossil fuel combustion and climate change.

A lot has changed in the last decade or so, at least in terms of corporate stance on the issue. Today most of the world's major oil companies acknowledge the existence of climate change and the role in it that oil and gas plays.

In 2014, a group of some of the largest corporate and state-owned fossil fuel companies created the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI). The member companies (which now include Alaska producers ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, BP, Repsol, and Eni) went on to explicitly recognize the climate change findings and goals of the 2016 Paris Agreement and call for putting a price on carbon emissions.

The OGCI announced new carbon capture and carbon-intensity goals last September at its annual meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations Climate Summit in New York.

Carbon Capture

Meeting Paris Agreement climate goals means keeping global greenhouse gas densities below levels that would cause catastrophic damage to life on earth. The climate goals call for reaching net-zero emissions in the developed world by 2050, the same target announced by BP and Repsol.

Half of staying within a carbon dioxide budget means finding ways to emit less. The other part of the balance sheet is finding ways to remove greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere.

Growing more trees is one...

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