Are Oil Giants Backing a Climate Solution That Will Never Happen?

Oil and gas giants are betting the shop on a carbon price being implemented in order to tackle climate change. But experts speaking at today's Economist Energy Summit in London agreed that an effective global carbon price just isn’t going to happen.

Last month ten major fossil fuel companies, including Shell, Total, BP, and Statoil, announced a joint climate declaration recognising the need to limit the global average temperature rise to 2C. In order to achieve this, a “widespread and effective pricing of carbon emissions” is needed alongside more gas and renewables, they argued.

But as Henry Tricks, energy and commodities editor at the Economist, put to executives at BP, Statoil and Total: “You’re all basing a lot of your future scenarios on the idea that there will be a carbon price. You’re calling for it, and yet most people don’t agree that it’s going to happen on a global scale. What is needed for it to happen?”

Very Little Cheap Natural Gas in New York Marcellus Shale, New Report Concludes

For years, the shale industry has touted the economic benefits it can provide. An overflowing supply of domestic natural gas will help keep heating and electric bills low for American consumers, they argue, while drilling jobs and astounding royalty windfalls for landowners will reinvigorate local economies. These tantalizing promises have caught the attention of politicians in Washington, D.C. who argue that the rewards of relying on shale gas outweigh the risks, especially because harm can be minimized by the industry or by regulators.

But across the U.S., communities where drilling has taken place have found that the process brings along higher costs than advertised. Even when properly done, drilling carries with it major impacts — including air pollution, truck traffic, and plunging property values — and when drillers make mistakes, water contamination has left residents without drinking water or cleaning up from disastrous well blow-outs.

And as the shale drilling boom moves into its 12th year, the most crucial benefit claimed by drillers — cheap and abundant domestic fuel supplies — has come increasingly into question. The gas is there, no doubt, but most of it costs more to get it out than the gas is worth.

A new report from New York state, where a de facto shale drilling moratorium has persisted since 2008, concludes that unless natural gas prices double, much of the shale gas in the state cannot be profitably accessed by oil and gas companies.

Countertrend: Google, Economist Flee from Climate Reality

The once-authoritative Economist news magazine has set fire to its credibility, again, by reporting that global warming has slowed to the point where one columnist argues that we should wait “a decade or two” before instituting any policy measures to ameliorate the threat. At the same time, Google, a company that advertises its corporate philosophy as “Do No Evil,” has decided to snuggle up to the climate change denial community, splashing money at the likes of Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe and the “think” tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

This kind of blithe disregard for fact or prudence was more in style a couple of years ago, when Denier-in-Chief George W. Bush was in the White House and Inhofe was Chair of the Republican-dominated Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works. But how can you account for so irresponsible and reactionary a performance - from theoretically credible sources - in 2013?

One potential explanation is the loveable naivety of the scientific and environmental community - the kind of people who are always willing, in good faith, to join a conversation about a “climate-change slowdown.” The very phrase is like red meat to the Anthony Watts types who deny climate science as part of their business plan. Looking, for example, at the current state of Arctic sea ice and the predictions for the $60-trillion time bomb that will detonate as that ice disappears, any talk of such an actual slowdown is absurd.

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