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Friday, June 24, 2022

In Davos, the climate debate over oil’s role in “going green”

by Peter Prangman

DAVOS, Switzerland ( Associated Press) — With government officials, corporate leaders and other elites at the World Economic Forum facing how to deal with climate change and its devastating effects, a central question is emerging: to what extent Could be part of a transition to low carbon fuels?

At different times the question may have been academic, critics of the stage, like the one that takes place in a tony ski village in the Swiss Alps, say it had no relevance to the real world. But today, the question is both practical and urgent, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced many countries that depend on Russian oil and gas to make rapid changes to energy supplies.

This debate has come to the fore in which the acutely felt effects of climate change have been multiplied, from recent heat waves in Southeast Asia to flooding in parts of South America. Are included. Meanwhile, the world’s top climate scientists have repeatedly warned that increased investment in fossil fuels is less likely to limit warming to 1.5 C (2.7 F), and thereby avoid even more devastating impacts. could.

US climate envoy John Kerry, speaking at a panel about the energy transition on Tuesday, said, “We must not allow a false narrative to be created that what has happened in Ukraine will in any way lead to further progress and a solution to the climate crisis.” minimizes the need to do so.”

Carey said that in the short term, especially in Europe, it was possible to meet the increased energy need from fossil fuels and stay on course to reduce emissions in the coming years.

Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made a different argument for an immediate move toward renewable energy: she said the 27-nation bloc should avoid relying on unreliable countries, as it did with fossil fuels from Russia. , as it moves towards a greener economy.

She said that “economies of the future” will no longer depend on oil and coal, but the green and digital transition will depend on other materials such as lithium, silicon metals or rare earth permanent magnets that are needed for batteries, chips, electric vehicles or wind. . Turbine

“For many of them, we rely on a handful of producers in the world. So we must avoid falling into the oil and gas trap. We must not replace old dependencies with new ones.”

Von der Leyen said the war in Ukraine strengthened Europe’s determination to rapidly rid itself of Russian fossil fuels. EU countries have approved a ban on coal imports from Russia, but member states have not yet received an agreement on sanctions on Russia’s oil and gas.

Attendees at Davos this week will discuss a number of other high-priority issues, such as the Russo-Ukraine war, the threat of increasing hunger around the world, inequality and the continuing health crisis.

This includes Turkey’s pushback for Finland and Sweden to apply for NATO membership. Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Havisto said in Davos that a delegation from her country and Sweden would travel to the Turkish capital on Wednesday for talks.

Havisto and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg both said in separate remarks to the gathering that they believed they could allay Turkey’s concerns which it sees as supporting those groups in Finland and Sweden. whom he considers terrorists.

“We have to do what we always do in NATO, and that is to sit down and address the concerns when allies do raise concerns,” Stoltenberg said.

But even in discussions of those issues, climate change was often present, as was tensions over what role oil and gas companies might play in the transition to green energy.

On Monday and again on Tuesday, the head of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, said the urgent energy needs of this time should not be an excuse to make long-term investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction, which have increased recently. month.

Instead, Birol argued that rapid shifts to renewable energy, increased nuclear power where possible, halted leaks of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, and reduced personal consumption, such as lowering the thermostat by a few degrees. .

“Some may use the invasion of Ukraine as an excuse to invest in fossil fuels. It will forever close the door on reaching our climate goals” to reduce emissions that are warming the planet, he said. They said.

Vicki Holb, CEO of Occidental Petroleum, a major oil company, recognized that the oil and gas industries had a central role in the transition to renewable energy.

Instead of talking about moving away from fossil fuels, Holb said the focus should be on making fossil fuels cleaner by reducing emissions. It said Occidental had invested heavily in wind and solar power and planned to build the largest direct air capture facility in the world in the Permian Basin. Direct air capture is a process that takes carbon dioxide out of the air and pressurizes it deep into the ground.

“America can provide enough resources to the rest of the world. However, it is becoming more and more difficult to do so because of the fact that we are facing a lot of adversities,” she said on Monday. “One is the belief that we can end oil and gas use as soon as possible.”

Joe Manchin, a US senator from West Virginia who has opposed a major climate change bill proposed by President Joe Biden, said on Monday that fossil fuels were key to ensuring energy security, and that the US has no such opportunity for the world. There were resources to help ensure safety.

“We can’t do this except for the fossil fuel industry,” Manchin, a Democrat, said, adding that no transition can happen until the alternatives are fully worked out.

Many energy experts argue that viable alternatives already exist. For example, in recent decades the cost of wind and solar has decreased significantly while the efficiencies of both have increased dramatically. At the same time, other new technologies have shown promise but require massive investment to develop.


Associated Press journalists Calvin Chan and Jamie Keaton in Davos and Dana Beltazi in London and Samuel Petrequin in Brussels contributed to this report.


Peter Prengman is the Associated Press’s director of global climate and environmental news and can be followed at: twitter.com/peterprengman


Associated Press climate and environmental coverage is supported by a number of private foundations. See more about Associated Press’s climate initiative here. Associated Press is solely responsible for all content.

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