In 2022, there are wins to be celebrated for climate policy. The recent US legislation is the first time in 40 years that the government has managed to pass any meaningful climate policy. The invasion of Ukraine has shaken Europe to accelerate the move away from Russian oil and gas. However, it is hard to celebrate wins for the climate without addressing the elephant in the room – the thriving and ever-profiting oil and gas sector. While recent geopolitical events did indeed infuse the energy transition with, (no pun intended), some much needed energy, Joelle Thomas would argue that the biggest winners of the past year’s events have been oil and gas companies. What does this mean for the energy transition?
Methane emissions from oil and fossil gas facilities are skyrocketing, potentially accelerating the severity of climate change. Nowhere is the problem worse than in the United State’s Permian Basin, the biggest oil and gas field in the now world-leading petro-carbon producing nation. Stretching from Texas into New Mexico, satellites are detecting worsening levels of methane pollution. This comes as no surprise to “Texas” Sharon, one of the world’s first methane hunters. Recording thousands of leaks with a specially designed camera, she shares her observations with lead blogger and podcaster Michael Buchsbaum.
More than a decade has passed since human rights attorney Steven Donziger helped win an unprecedented $9.5 billion judgment on behalf of 30,000 indigenous Ecuadorians against the oil giant Chevron that demonstrated how the company had dumped billions of gallons of oil waste into the Amazon’s forests and streams. But in 2016, a New York judge invalidated the verdict, claiming “shocking levels of misconduct” by Donziger and the Ecuadorian judiciary. The judge then granted Chevron the right to seize Donziger’s laptop, phone and passwords. When he appealed, he was hit with contempt charges and placed under house arrest. After two years of confinement, this summer another judge found Donziger guilty of contempt. Now in jail and largely ignored by the mainstream media, lead blogger and podcaster, Michael Buchsbaum summarizes Donziger’s story while providing links to where readers can learn more about Chevron’s shocking abuse of judicial power.
Environmental disasters and global warming severely threaten global biodiversity. Few wild places can boast diverse ecosystems that are largely intact. One such area – Kavango Zambezi Transfontier Conservation Area (KAZA) – is being threatened by plans by the oil and gas industry. Andy Gheorghiu reports on the fight to prevent oil and gas extraction in Southern Africa that is threatening our planet’s largest nature protection zone.
Climate change and international decarbonisation efforts led Ecuador to expand its renewable energy capacities. Given its significant potential for renewable energies, why is the nation unable to shake off its dependency on oil and move to a clean energy mix? Kathrin Meyer explores the factors at play in the South American country.
The window of opportunity to keep the average global temperature from breaking through the ceiling of 2°C — or preferably 1.5°C — as set out in the UN’s Paris Agreement is closing fast. But for parts of the Kalahari, a vast semi-desert in southern Africa, the battle to stabilise the regional temperature is already lost. Botswana is expected to reach an average warming of 2°C in less than five years. At a time when the science warns that countries need to keep their fossil fuels in the ground, conservationists here have expressed alarm at the news that oil and gas prospecting licenses have been issued for large parts of Botswana and Namibia, including in the ecologically and water-sensitive Okavango Delta and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Leonie Joubert reports
Though increasingly framed as a key way to slow climate change, for most commercial Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) operations, selling the carbon they capture to produce more fossil fuels through Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) production is the only way they can ensure profits for investors. According to a count by the Global CCS Institute, of the 28 currently operable CCS complexes worldwide, 22 rely on EOR as their back end “storage” system. CCS advocates hope that under the right public policy regimes, this profit-making motive will help scale up CCS operations while driving costs down. Getting the public onboard means selling CCS as a way to prevent climate change, but who pays when they fail? L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews one of 2020’s biggest CCS disasters as the fourth part of the on-going Seduction series.
As many nations develop net-zero carbon plans both to honor the Paris Climate Agreement and address the climate crisis, many are leaning heavily upon unproven and misunderstood Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) technologies. Despite billions of dollars spent in research and development, it’s unclear how much environmental progress is actually achieved by CCS. Not only is there little accurate data around how much carbon has really been buried, but there’s reason to believe CCS will actually increase overall greenhouse gas emissions. In the third part of his “Seduced by CCS” series, L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews CCS’ math and how utilizing it to produce more oil only makes things worse.
The major shale oil and shale gas deposit Vaca Muerta (in English also: Dead Cow) covers a 30,000 square kilometers area located in three Argentinian provinces Neuquén, Mendoza and Rio Negro. According to the US Energy Information Administration, Vaca Muerta has a total of recoverable gas resources of 308 tcf (8.7 billion m3) and a recoverable oil and condensate of 16 billion barrels (2.5 billion liters), making it the world’s second-largest shale gas and oil deposit. A project of great political-economic interest, but also counterparted by the social and environmental impact inherent to the extraction of non-conventional gas and oil by fracking. And even further than that: while the world is turning to decarbonisation, successive Argentine governments have been persisting on succeeding their fossil energy models. Maximiliano Proaño Ugalde reports
In addition to other profound impacts, the corona virus has offered global energy markets an unprecedented natural experiment. Collapsing demand for conventional energy fuels and inelastic supply responses have depressed oil prices that are now being incorporated into forward energy planning. This adverse investment accelerator effect is now expected to bring forward the so-called “peak oil” milestone, significantly shortening the profitable lifecycle of known oil reserves. Thus a global health crisis has given us only a foretaste of what we can expect over a longer time horizon, as climate risk continues a slower but more inexorable ascent. Simply put, the rising social cost of carbon will exert the same effect on conventional energy demand, compounded by the emergence of ever more affordable renewable substitutes. Furthermore, the international push for a ‘green recovery‘ in the aftermath of the pandemic is perceived to hasten the end of the oil era. Oyuna Baldakova and David Roland-Holst report