BP Will Never Abandon Fossil Fuels, Jonathon Porritt Acknowledges

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One of the most senior figures in the UK’s environmental movement of recent decades, Jonathon Porritt, recently made the statement that it is now impossible for the large fossil fuel companies of today to adapt in “a timely and intelligent way to the imperative of radical decarbonization.”

The statement, importantly, was accompanied by the announcement that his Forum for the Future institute was cutting its decades-long ties with BP and Shell — making the recent statements something more than just words, and potentially a strong example for others to follow.

Image Credit: Oil Sands via Flickr CC

In an interview with the Guardian, Jonathon Poritt put it pretty bluntly: “These are companies whose senior managers know, as an irrefutable fact, that their current business-model threatens both the stability of the global economy and the longer-term prospects of humankind as a whole.”

Certainly true. Given the enormous issues currently facing human civilization, of which fossil fuel use and climate change are only “one,” business as usual is more or less a death sentence for the current social and cultural order(s).

In a just-released study published in the journal Science, an international consortium of numerous scientists across various fields has warned that human activity has now pushed 4 out of 9 of the processes/systems that life on the planet is dependent upon past the point of stability, and that we are now at the point-of-no-return as far as some of these go — with unpredictable consequences now more or less guaranteed to occur in the relatively near-future.

The planetary boundaries referenced by the researchers, are:

  1. Climate change (global weirding)
  2. Change in biosphere integrity (biodiversity loss and species extinction, endangered primates, etc)
  3. Stratospheric ozone depletion
  4. Ocean acidification
  5. Biogeochemical flows (phosphorus and nitrogen cycles)
  6. Land-system change (deforestation, desertification, etc )
  7. Freshwater use
  8. Atmospheric aerosol loading (microscopic particles in the atmosphere that affect climate and living organisms)
  9. Introduction of novel entities (eg organic pollutants, radioactive materials, nanomaterials, and micro-plastics)

While Porritt’s move for divestment from fossil fuels certainly isn’t an earth-shattering occurrence, it’s definitely what we may as well call a positive one. Many other notable organizations and individuals haven’t done so yet.

But, as Porritt noted, perhaps the time for believing in engagement has now passed?

It has been quite a painful journey for me personally. I so badly wanted to believe that the combination of reason, rigorous science and good people would enable elegant transition strategies to emerge in those companies. But we learn as we go. And go those companies surely will, if not in the near future.

On that note, it’s worth mentioning here that “Global Divestment Day” is rapidly approaching — on February 13–14 — so perhaps we’ll see others take his lead?

Image Credit: Oil Sands via Flickr CC

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

James Ayre has 4830 posts and counting. See all posts by James Ayre

18 thoughts on “BP Will Never Abandon Fossil Fuels, Jonathon Porritt Acknowledges

  • BP and Shell are the lame and the blind leading the way.
    time to divest.

  • 1) Divest from all carbon producers.
    2) Cut you’re carbon consumption. I’m still surprised that after what Democrats have seen of Exxon and Koch $300+ Million dollar spend in the last election, that we ALL must buy a Hybrid or an EV, to save the climate and the DEMOCRACY.

    We must MAKE an alternative auto market not based on carbon, by buying EV’s.

    • My wife and I are vegan, 1 car, shifting to 100 percent renewables. Cut as low as you can, switch energy systems as fast as you can, divest, support policies that speed transition away from carbon based fuels, live lightly.

  • Exxon ALONE should be spending 20 Billion a year to transition to Wind and Solar. As an Exxon stock holder you should see that your company is DEVALUED because it does not have a believable Plan B.

    Let’s look at PE’s.
    Company PE
    GM 21
    GE 18
    XOM 11

    Exxon Shareholders are right now LOSING MONEY by not FORCING Exxon Management to Manage to REALITY.

    What more needs to be said, Fire Right Wing Nut Management and MAKE MORE MONEY.

    • Don’t be ridiculous. As long as shareholders pray hard enough, God will let us increase fossil fuel use and fossil profits indefinitely!

      Also, the article is missing a link to Global Divestment Day: http://gofossilfree.org/divestment-day

      Although it really bugs me there’s nothing in Los Angeles. Usually there’s at least a couple events in LA for this kind of thing. What gives, LA? Conservative San Diego is beating you!

      • You could organize one!

    • Oil companies bring no useful skills to wind and solar energy. Total made a good bet by acquiring a controlling stake in SunPower, but that’s very much the exception, and it works because they leave the subsidiary alone apart from financial guarantees.

      What puzzles me is the indifference of oil companies to geothermal, which is a very good match to some of their core technical competences in geology and drilling.

      • I agree. Geothermal will be the next big piece of the baseload energy puzzle to hit its stride. Look for more advancements in drilling technology that will make geothermal competitive.

  • The future of coal is straightforward. As demand falls, prices will drop below production costs for one mine after another. Coal companies will simply go bust.

    Oil is more interesting. Demand is holding up, for now – simply because the electric vehicle revolution is far less advanced than the renewable electricity one, and total ICE vehicle sales are still rising. However, evs are now backed by a good half of the major manufacturers, with deep pockets and engineering resources, plus the electric utilities: a very influential alliance. The worldwide ev rollout will look more like the mobile phone revolution, led by big companies (even in Africa), than the early decades of wind and solar.

    Another aspect that distinguishes oil from coal is the high cost of marginal production. So we are likely to keep on seeing boom-and-bust cycles, against a trend of decline. The booms will be very profitable. Oil will party to the end.

    Only gas has an exit path to sustainability. The transmission network is valuable, and gas is an exceptionally convenient fuel, for example for peak electricity generation. Gas can gradually switch to sustainable sources, from biomass and catalysed hydrogen using surplus electricity from variable renewables.

    • This is the future for all fossil fuels as the renewable systems become more viable and hit greater and greater economies of scale. We are essentially in a price war with the traditional fuels. But renewables have the benefit in that the fuel source is free and does not deplete. As capture grows more efficient the marginal depleting resources are put in a situation where they are no longer economically feasible to produce.

      We could call this the carbon fuels death spiral.

  • The fossil fuel companies, in putting their extract and burn business model above all other things, have essentially declared war on human civilization and life on Earth. We, as thinking, conscientious, and compassionate beings simply cannot allow this to continue. They put at risk all wealth, all life, and any future worth living in. Their blindness goes down as among the worst great atrocities in the history of humankind. The fact that they are simply doing what they were doing before is no excuse. What was bearable pain before has now become an exercise in ever increasing brutality.

    They simply must go. And there is proof enough that we can find another, better, way than continued burning of high-hazard fuels.

  • ‘Never’ probably is 2017.

  • It is nice to have someone to blame but it might be useful to put yourself in the role of a BP (or Shell, or Exxon…) exec. He may be thinking:

    “Almost all the scientists in the world are sayng this is unsustainable, but no one is doing anything. With few exceptions the world is NOT passing laws or spending money to stop global warming, preserve the Amazon, switch to renewables, tax carbon, etc., etc. Even if all transport went to biofuels or EV it would only cut GHG emissions by 21%. That would not do the trick. At the same time, entire countries like Australia and Poland are arguing for burning more coal, which is the biggest culprit. So what am I supposed to do in the face of massive indifference by the voting public – Close down BP so Shell and Exxon can divvy up our market share? And what good would that do?”

    On a GHG per capita basis, the worst emitters are democracies. The problem is not the cos. It is the govts. we elect.


    “We have met the enemy and he is us”

  • The climate change crisis summarized in a single sentence: “These are companies whose senior managers know, as an irrefutable fact, that their current business-model threatens both the stability of the global economy and the longer-term prospects of humankind as a whole.”

    • And why should they do anything differently if the voters can’t get it together to change things? The US, Australia, UK are democracies who continually vote in climate change deniers, and coal supporters. The cos won’t change unless we, the people, tell them to and so far the majority of us haven’t.

      • it boils down to numbers is what I’m saying…dollars and sense. we need to impact that bottom line (via a carbon tax, legislation, etc.) to change things. Depressing, accurate…let’s do it.

        • I agree – we need laws to make it happen. These guys aren’t going to do it because some of us ask nicely. They see the SUV sales going up and feel that they can go on forever. We have *some* laws in *some* places but until people up the GHG priority from #10 on their list to #1 or #2, it will be too little too late.

  • Whatever the name of fossil fuel companies, they should leave fossil fuels in the ground. BP is just one of them bad guys. They think they have the power to keep business as usual, but we as consumers have more power: if we change our own lifestyle to use clean energy sources, and this is happening slowly, the fossil fuel industry will slowly crumble, of course with ups and downs in prices because of changing demand and available production, but they will have no other choice to change their products, or disappear in the end, or at least shrink to tiny entities.
    Besides, even if these filthy companies do succeed in maintaining business as usual, the planet itself will make sure these companies won’t have any future.
    It is my hope that this won’t happen, that people will realize their job can be a green one, so that fossil fuel industry is going to experience a lack in employees and great difficulty in maintaining business as usual.
    I am convinced that clean energy sources will give us a much brighter future.
    So I’m always thinking how to use that exceptional power I have, and lower my own carbon footprint and that of my family, every single day!

Comments are closed.