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By Sherry Listgarten

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About this blog: Climate change, despite its outsized impact on the planet, is still an abstract concept to many of us. That needs to change. My hope is that readers of this blog will develop a better understanding of how our climate is evolving a...  (More)

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Chevron says "We are just meeting demand". So are they blameless?

Uploaded: Oct 23, 2022

One afternoon when I was about nine years old, I was standing in the front yard with my younger brother trying to blow bubbles. We didn’t have any store-bought bubble mix, so we held a large drinking glass with a solution that I’d made from a recipe of dish soap, water, and a little sugar. We were using drinking straws to blow the bubbles, with little success.

A neighbor from down the street, a girl of about my age, came along and asked what we were doing. I explained that we were trying to blow bubbles with some homemade bubble mix. She said it looked like we were drinking it, and for some reason I decided to convince her that it didn’t taste all that bad since it had sugar in it. She didn’t believe me, so I insisted that it tasted pretty good and pretended to drink a little while shooting my brother a look to keep him quiet. I handed Hannah a straw.

To my enduring surprise and dismay, Hannah didn’t just taste the bubble mix, she took a big swig through the straw, turned a sickly shade of green, and eventually threw up on the lawn. I ran inside to get help and got in a huge amount of trouble. Consequences ensued.

During my hours and days of home lockdown, I theorized about different variations of that encounter, and in particular one in which someone leaves a bottle of bubble mix (or poison) in a public park. Who is to blame if a passerby picks it up and drinks from it? I eventually concluded that (a) the bottle would need to be pretty well sealed, so only a purposeful adult could open it; and (b) the bottle would need to be clearly marked with a graphic skull and cross bones. If both were true, then was the bottle depositor still at fault if someone drank it and got sick? And would it matter if the bottle were left in a public park vs somewhere else? Or if the passerby got really sick vs just a stomach ache?



Those dilemmas came back to me this week when I was thinking about the responsibility of oil and gas companies for their past and on-going role in climate change. When there is evidence that they suppressed or downplayed the science of climate change in order to grow their business, the case against them seems pretty clear. But if they did not engage in misinformation or disinformation, and instead just provided their product to those who were asking for it, should they still be held liable? And does it matter if that is a backwards-looking excuse or a forward-looking rationale?

Last month the CFO of Chevron, Pierre Breber, was interviewed for the Dean’s Speakers Series at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Breber explained that Chevron is continuing to invest in its traditional oil and gas business while also investing in clean technologies. “We’re going to have a traditional business that is going to be very low carbon (1), but it’s going to meet the demand that society has, which we don’t know what that’s going to be. Then we’re going to have a faster growing new energy business. And we don’t think we have to make a choice of one or the other, we think we can do both. And then depending on the pace of the energy transition, the speed of the two and the size of the two may vary.”

The way he describes it, Chevron is a passive participant in the market, one that simply responds to customer demand and investor interest. (2)

The dean and several of the students challenged him on that stance. Reports from the IPCC and the International Energy Agency (IEA) say that fossil-fuel investment needs to drop quickly in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and reach net-zero by 2050. Breber’s response was to repeat that Chevron is simply meeting demand: “Demand for our products is growing, not shrinking. And that’s in part because it’s 7.5 billion people, we’re going to 9 billion people. Hundreds of millions of people, hopefully billions, are going to come out of poverty, go to a higher standard of living, get something closer to the standard of living that we have, and that takes energy.” (3)

He encouraged everyone to read over the American Petroleum Institute’s Climate Action Framework, which holds that even in 2040 almost half of our energy will come from oil and gas. (4)


Source: American Petroleum Institute’s Climate Action Framework

Students continued to push back, insisting on a better future for themselves and their children. One made the point that we are acting very late to address climate change and suggested that Chevron and the American Petroleum Institute and other fossil fuel companies hold some responsibility for that due to decades-long campaigns of delay and denial. Oil and gas companies should therefore take more responsibility for getting us out of this mess. Breber again asserted Chevron’s passive role: “I don’t accept your premise that we are causing this. We are providing the energy that’s needed today. We will provide the energy that is needed tomorrow.”

Chevron is using that same defense in a lawsuit in Hawaii, denying financial responsibility for the climate effects that locals are experiencing. Chevron argues that everyone has known about climate change for decades and they are not responsible for the choices that people are making. “Members of the public -- including media and government officials -- had ample data with which to make informed policy and personal decisions.”

So does that mean it’s okay to put a bottle of poison on a public park bench as long as it’s clearly marked? “Quenches your thirst but makes you sick -- you decide!” It never occurred to my younger self to consider the case where a company was distributing these bottles to hundreds of parks and making a profit off of them. And yet we have cigarettes. We continue to allow companies to produce and sell cigarettes despite their adverse health impacts. Over time we have required warning labels on packages, and in 2023 we may have the more graphic warnings depicted below. But the tobacco companies themselves have shown little interest in weaning people off of their products and we do not insist that they do so.


Source: FDA

Chevron is aware of the harm (and the good) that results from consumption of its products and dismisses any suggestion that it should be responsible for moving the energy market away from fossil fuels. One student who worked as a consultant for oil and gas companies said he was surprised and frustrated by their low uptake of clean technology. He asked what specifically Chevron is doing to accelerate their customers’ switch to clean energy, given that the world needs to be doing that and Chevron has considerable leverage. Breber’s frothy response was unconvincing: “Everybody is working on this. Last year, right around this time, we did a full energy transition spotlight. We only talked about our energy transition strategy. So it’s something that is really essential to winning back investors…. It’s going to take a lot of talent, a lot of companies, a lot of solutions. If it was easy, it would have been done.”

The student’s question stuck with me. Given where we stand now, and everything that we know about how we got here and what the future might hold, shouldn’t the oil and gas companies be using their position and their leverage to accelerate the transition rather than spending their time and money to litigate their right to not care? Breber talked about the need “to balance our fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders who are … teachers and firefighters and folks saving for retirement.” But what about the lives of the children and grandchildren of those teachers and firefighters?

It seems craven for oil and gas companies like Chevron to subjugate their moral compass to the machinations of the markets. But that is too often how America works. The dollar determines our code of conduct and when we fail to price the externalities appropriately we end up with unhealthy levels of trade. We have delayed for nearly two years now an update to the social cost of carbon, which by all accounts should be two or even three times higher than it is today. Will such a change, should it happen, be enough to accelerate investment and encourage real leadership from the likes of Chevron? Or will we just be dragged into court yet again?

What do you think of Chevron’s take on its role and responsibilities in the transition to clean energy?

Notes and References
1. By “very low carbon”, Breber is referring to Chevron’s goal to reduce the carbon intensity of their fossil energy by 35% from 2016 levels by 2028. It may be more accurate to think of that as “relatively low” rather than “very low”.

2. Breber explained that they are pursuing the clean energy path because their customers are demanding it for their own net-zero goals, and investors are looking for ESG options.

3. He observed that many sectors are hard to electrify, which he said means continued demand for oil and gas. When a student pointed out that clean hydrogen can work for many of those sectors, he replied “You’re right, hydrogen can work for a lot of these heavy-duty sectors, that’s why we’re in it, but there’s only so much wind and solar.”

4. The American Petroleum Institute’s graphic is based on a 2018 IEA report that has us achieving net-zero in 2070. As the science of global warming and its impacts has progressed in the last few years, the IEA has come out with a newer report urging a “critical but formidable” roadmap to net-zero by 2050. In that roadmap, fossil fuels drop to just 35% of our energy in 2040 and 22% by 2050.

Current Climate Data (September 2022)
Global impacts, US impacts, CO2 metric, Climate dashboard

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Comments

Posted by Jennifer, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 23, 2022 at 7:50 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

One of Chevron's keys to long-term success is their conservative approach. You can't please everybody.


Posted by Matt Schlegel , a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Oct 23, 2022 at 8:48 am

Matt Schlegel is a registered user.

If you want a cigarette, the tobacco industry will sell one to you. Similarly, as long as want to burn fossil fuels, the fossil fuel industry will sell it to you.

Eliminating tobacco smoke in public places took a grassroots movement. Likewise, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels will take grassroots movements to generate the transformational change we need.

So far, we've lost about 70% of species in this sixth mass extinction event we started by burning fossil fuels. We humans are in the minority 30% now. Are we smart enough to realize that our very survival requires us to wean ourselves off fossil fuels within this decade? We will see. Good luck to us all!


Posted by Jake Waters, a resident of Birdland,
on Oct 23, 2022 at 9:10 am

Jake Waters is a registered user.

“So far, we've lost about 70% of species in this sixth mass extinction event we started by burning fossil fuels." - Really? I find that very suspicious.

If you want to eat, things need to grow: sunshine, water, and C02. [portion removed]


Posted by MichaelB, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Oct 23, 2022 at 11:29 am

MichaelB is a registered user.

"Eliminating tobacco smoke in public places took a grassroots movement. Likewise, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels will take grassroots movements to generate the transformational change we need."


Thanks to so called "transformational change", we no longer have a reliable supply of energy in this state. We are now subject to "flex alerts" and rolling blackouts. At the same time, we are being lectured/shamed by the "grassroots movement" for running air conditioners/appliances during afternoons on summer days and told not to charge the same electric cars they mandated everyone to purchase/use.

Some of us already knew that windmills/solar panels could not supply the energy needs of the state (or the nation) but were either ignored or dismissed as "deniers". So now people who drive to work/take their kids to school/deliver goods/operate machinery (using fossil fuels) to live their lives and make our economy function are the new "smokers". We do not "need" more of this going forward.


Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 23, 2022 at 11:47 am

Bystander is a registered user.

If we go back in time, whaling produced oil for powering lights. Whales were hunted until almost extinct in certain areas.

Before fossil fuels, namely coal and oil, mankind still wanted power. The early mills were near rivers so water wheels could be used to grind grain into flour, or windmills that had to be rotated to the direction of the wind for the same purpose. Otherwise livestock were made to walk in circles to move the stones to do the grinding.

Before energy was cheap enough to produce lighting in homes, most people went to bed early when it was dark because candles were expensive for almost everyone. Wood was in great demand to heat and cook on fires, but the need for wood wiped out many forests particularly in Europe. The smoke from woodburning fires was breathed in by those using it to cook particularly those who had to turn the spits on the fires.

Energy has never been particularly clean, safe, or without harm to wildlife or mankind. The need for shelter, for warm skins to make clothing, for cooking food and producing warmth in homes, has been around since cavemen first discovered how to make fire.

We know a lot more about how to improve our energy supplies, but our need for energy is much more demanding. The days of everyone using horse power to get around the towns was not particularly hygienic with all the dung produced and the need for clean hay and grain to feed the horses meant that it was a pricey operation also.

As a species, humans need power and energy and almost always have done. We must celebrate how far we have come since those early times even before industry was a technical revolution. Studying history shows us much more how far we have come and can give us hope for the future generations.


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Oct 23, 2022 at 8:06 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Thanks for all the comments! Apologies for the break in the blog, I was busy with a few things.

Anyway, a couple of thoughts.

@Jennifer: Ha, yes, you can’t please everybody. One question I have is, what does it mean to act conservatively when so many things are changing and will continue to change? What do conservative farmers do as their crops dry up and they suffer yield losses from early and extended warm seasons? What do conservative insurance companies do as their insured properties burn or flood? It’s not clear to me if slow-moving Chevron is being conservative or being reckless, and not just with the well-being of future generations. And is it possible that their betting on a slow transition could be a self-fulfilling prophecy?

@Jake: I think @Matt may be referring to this study, which refers to populations and not to species. In general, scientists are very concerned about the loss of biodiversity over the last few decades, as many people (and species) would be impacted. I’m not sure what sources you find readable, but here is Britannica’s take. (You can skip down to the “Human-driven biodiversity loss” section.)

@MichaelB: Well, I think we are going to be seeing much more change, in power, transportation, buildings, agriculture, insurance, and more. Some will be invisible, some will be straight-forward, and some will be destabilizing. What we don’t need is judgment to go along with that. I hope you can tune all that out and make the choices that are right for you. I also hope the policy makers can find ways for people to embrace rather than resent the changes.


Posted by D, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 24, 2022 at 7:18 am

D is a registered user.

Interesting how the politicians running the big cities in the Bay Area claim to be "environmentalists" but yet completely ignore the immediate and clear and present danger the homeless are causing to the environment. Drive around Oakland, San Jose, Berkeley and San Francisco and you will see huge homeless encampments where human feces, trash, garbage, and drugs are everywhere and leaking into the water system. Recently, several dogs in San Jose almost died when ingesting drugs all over the public park left by the homeless. The same cities that ban their police and city trucks from filling up at certain gas stations due to "evil Chevron" ignore the homeless defecating on public sidewalks and starting dangerous fires in their homeless encampments.

Until these politicians and their activist allies stop the terrible clear and present immediate damage the homeless are doing to the environment, many moderate citizens will ignore their environmental agendas. Why should we worry about some possible threat in the very distant future when a real and clear threat is taking place right now that they are ignoring?


Posted by Rachel+G, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Oct 24, 2022 at 8:24 am

Rachel+G is a registered user.

Hi Sherry,

Thanks for yet another thoughtful blog post. Here are few links that might be interesting to you and others.

"What Big Oil knew about climate change, in its own words", by Benjamin Franta, Ph.D. Candidate in History, Stanford University
Web Link

And regarding the comparative impact of richer and poorer people on the environment:

"Carbon emissions of richest 1 percent more than double the emissions of the poorest half of humanity"
Web Link
Web Link

Trash is visible, but carbon emissions are not, so those of us on the higher end of the wealth scale can pretend we aren't doing as much damage as we are, because we don't see the pollution piling up around us. Those of us who live in houses also produce more trash than the homeless, but it gets carted away, to do damage out of sight.

Here's an experiment to try in front of other people: Crumple up a piece of paper and throw it on the ground. Everyone who sees it will get very upset at you! But paper will decompose pretty fast, and not really do noticeable damage. Those same people freaking out about the paper on the ground will then get in their cars to drive away, sending CO2 and other greenhouse gases (invisibly) into the atmosphere to cause problems for a thousand years. Somehow that's okay.


Posted by D, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 24, 2022 at 9:29 am

D is a registered user.

Even the SF Chronicle had an excellent article on August 25 on why the homeless encampments are causing so much environmental damage and serious safety threats. The Wood street homeless encampment alone has had over 60 fires this year, as the trash and feces create fuel for the flames, and a nearby EBMUD oxygen plant that is needed to treat waste water is in imminent danger. But lets just keeping talking about "evil Chevron" and ignoring the homeless who are polluting our water supplies, destroying our air with their fires, and dumping human feces and drugs into the environment.


Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills,
on Oct 24, 2022 at 11:19 am

Joseph E. Davis is a registered user.

The inconvenient truth is that our society will not function without the enormous source of energy from fossil fuels. It will take a long time for that to change. Trying to punish oil companies for producing the energy we need is a foolish and destructive approach.


Posted by MyFeelz, a resident of JLS Middle School,
on Oct 24, 2022 at 12:55 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

@D, I get that you are super upset about homelessness. It's so easy to point to them as being the problem, as if they sprouted out of the earth just to deliberately bother you. Unless you can see them as one of your family members, you won't be able to reach another plane called empathy. And maybe not even then. What we are facing with fossil fuels is radical change no one is prepared for, but it IS happening. Natural resources are scarce. Companies like Chevron are capitalizing NOW because they see diminishing returns coming in the very near future. As recently as 2020, when we all "stayed home", the price of oil and gas got so low I thought we might get paid to take the product off their hands. Big Oil has to get caught up from that while at the same time, figuring out when it's time to cut the cord. They are capitalizing on the current demand because they are a capitalist entity. It's what they do. Are they harming us? Of course. But we've become slaves to their products. Just like tobacco, they get us hooked and then raise the price, while consumers get sicker and sicker from their addiction. How they figure that "Hundreds of millions of people, hopefully billions, are going to come out of poverty, go to a higher standard of living, get something closer to the standard of living that we have, and that takes energy" is a good thing, is beyond my capacity to understand. Our US standard of living is getting lower and lower. Hence, the prevalence of homeless people in every town and every city in every state of this country. That's a product of capitalism. Very rich vs. very poor. Housed vs homeless.


Posted by D, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 24, 2022 at 4:24 pm

D is a registered user.

Stop blaming capitalism for the homeless problem. The problem is politicians ignoring the real, immediate, threat they are causing to our environment. It is hard to worry about something that may occur in 200 or more years, when today we are dealing with the real and imminent threat they are causing our environment. California politicians have made one bad decision after another, in legalizing pot, a gate way drug, to harder drugs, that lead to more homeless. As to the homeless who are not just drug addicts, but are mentally ill, the politicians should do the humane thing and institutionalize them, where they can have their basic needs met, while also protecting the environment from their destruction.

Are fossil fuels a concern? Of course, but do not expect moderates to listen to your environmental agendas dealing with potential problems in 200 or more years, when today our children are coming into contact with human feces, fires, and drugs and litter from the homeless problem. Deal with the homeless problem, and then you will have some credibility, and we can listen to your concerns for future problems.


Posted by Eric Muller, a resident of Los Altos,
on Oct 25, 2022 at 6:37 pm

Eric Muller is a registered user.


> What do you think of Chevron's take on its role and responsibilities in the transition to clean energy?

Chevron's take (both as expressed by M. Breber, and in its annual report) is of course entirely incompatible with the Paris climate accords.

My take is that Chevron has no responsibility, because Chevron is not a person. The responsibility is not even primarily with the owners or employees. It is with us the citizens, who ultimately set the boundaries of what companies can or should do.


Posted by MichaelB, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Oct 26, 2022 at 6:56 am

MichaelB is a registered user.

"The inconvenient truth is that our society will not function without the enormous source of energy from fossil fuels. It will take a long time for that to change. Trying to punish oil companies for producing the energy we need is a foolish and destructive approach."

The state will do it anyway. We have one party rule and those in charge don't want people using any fossil fuel energy sources whatsoever - regardless of the consequences/disruptions.

Expect another round of mandates/regulations/taxes on energy production and distribution which will inevitably lead to higher prices passed on to customers and chronic supply disruptions. The regulatory environment will prohibit any refinery expansion efforts to address supply concerns. Gavin Newsom and the rest of his party will then (drum roll please) claim that the only reasons for prices charged and lack of availability are "corporate greed" and "price gouging".


Posted by Tom, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Oct 26, 2022 at 10:57 am

Tom is a registered user.

This funny satirical oil company "commercial" gives a way to think of the oil companies' attitude toward society of the future.
Web Link

It makes me want to accelerate our path toward a safer future.
And it makes me want to listen less to the oil companies' placations.


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Oct 26, 2022 at 1:08 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

I really appreciate the comments, and your keeping the discussion civil. Way to go, readers!

A couple of thoughts.

@D from Danville and @Rachel from Mountain View both make the point that people are much more responsive to their immediate environment than to what might be happening at a distance (in time or in space). I agree. It is human nature and often common sense to put less weight on things happening in other parts of the world or to other generations. Sometimes I think the term “populism” should be replaced by “here-and-now-ism” to reflect the appeal of these arguments and why non-populists are often accused of “drinking the koolaid” by putting more weight on what they can’t see than on what they can, even when it’s grounded in science.

@D makes an additional point about trust. If we can’t trust our policy makers to handle serious issues that are right in front of us, why should we trust them to handle more complex issues that are a ways out? (I disagree with the suggestion that the homeless primarily or even secondarily represent an environmental problem. They use fewer resources and generate less pollution/emissions than most of us do. But the political distrust that stems from our inability to help/manage the growing homeless population is very serious.)

I strongly disagree with @D’s construal of climate change as something “that may occur in 200 or more years”. We see the impacts of climate change today with wildfires, crop failures, floods, droughts, heat waves, and more. That sounds apocalyptic, I get it. But we are starting to see these effects all around the globe, and it is “real” enough that insurance companies and other conservative industries are incorporating it into their planning. This is already happening at 1.1C of warming. We will likely breach 1.5C of warming in the 2030’s, and we are on track to hit 2.5C of warming by 2100. What difference does a degree make? See here. This is not 200 years away. It is now and, for all of us, the rest of our lives and our children’s lives.

@Tom, that is quite the video. It demonstrates really well how fact-free visual marketing can be used to mislead, and reflects how important it is to oil and gas companies to defend their right to “not give a F*”.

An economist would say that much of this discussion is about the discount rate. How do we, and how do we expect corporations to, trade off near-term actions and impacts with long-term risks and impacts? Without enormous and sustained popular and political pressure, short-term interests and the immediate bottom line will always win out.


Posted by MyFeelz, a resident of another community,
on Oct 26, 2022 at 1:10 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

@D, you can't change the effect if you're not willing to look at the cause. People don't just wake up in their four-poster bed in their 5 BR, 3BA house and say, "I think I want to give all this up and go live on the streets." I've been homeless without doing a single drug and without mental illness. It was strictly the economy that led to it. Tenant-gouging landlords, and that is STILL happening and it produces more and more homeless people. You can blame it on whatever you want but homeless is strictly US vs THEM, i.e. RICH vs POOR and I bet you have never had a conversation with a homeless person to ask them their story about how they got there. The fact that oil companies think or say that their production will lift people out of poverty is as ridiculous as saying all of society's ills are due to homelessness. There is a vast disconnect with reality.


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Oct 26, 2022 at 1:15 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Please keep future comments on the topic of the blog post. Any further comments about homelessness will be removed, though you can continue them by starting a new topic.


Posted by Kevin, a resident of Castlewood,
on Oct 26, 2022 at 3:04 pm

Kevin is a registered user.

Excellent opinion piece, Sherry!

We cannot afford to wait for the perfect renewable energy infrastructure to make an overnight switch to renewable forms of energy. It is going to take time and it will not be perfect. Instead, we can learn from the issues and mistakes to improve the infrastructure and technology. That is how all new transformational technologies are developed. We cannot say - well, it is not working so let's just go back to fossil fuels. We need to hold Chevron and other fossil fuel companies accountable. We also need to be accountable ourselves. I am fortunate to have the means to have installed solar panels and two Batteries in my house. I am totally off the grid all day until we go to bed. Our solar panels make enough energy to power our house and charge the batteries during the day and then the batteries take over at night to power our house until around our bed time when our energy usage is very low. Our power has not been interrupted by PG&E outages. In FLA, the housing developments that had this type of solar/ battery power system and were on the path of hurricane Ian survived with no or minimal damage.

There is no doubt renewable energy is the way to go and the technology is getting better and better thanks to many innovative companies right here in the Bay Area.


Posted by BruceS, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Oct 26, 2022 at 10:19 pm

BruceS is a registered user.

Hi Sherry,

First off, nothing below absolves Chevron (and most other oil companies) for their lies and propaganda about Global Warming. For that they should be crucified, but ...

Yes, the world needs to get off of fossil fuels as soon as possible. But, it also needs fossil fuels until substitutes (e.g. wind or solar) or alternatives (Electric Vehicles) become available and affordable.

To suggest otherwise is to invite disaster. If we learn anything from the mess around the Ukraine war, it's that cutting the amount of fossil fuel available before we have an alternative available will NOT advance good change, but make things worse. Europe, in order to heat and power itself is going back to coal.

If the oil companies are smart, they will invest in alternative energy (from what I hear, present clean investments by oil companies are minuscule), but for now their main job is to keep the fossil fuels coming in the amount needed.

It's the job of everyone else to put them out of business as soon as possible, but it's going to take a while. In the mean time we need to not blow up civilization in order to save it.


Posted by Karl A, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 27, 2022 at 7:20 am

Karl A is a registered user.

Sherry
After reading BruceS' comment about putting the oil companies out of business, I gave some thought about how they provide our modern society with more than the obvious gasoline for cars and various other fuels for generating electricity and heat for our homes.
I look around my home and see that almost all the “modern things" - TV, computer, phone, clothes, carpet, flooring, meds, etc. all include components that are derived from oil. Roads your drive your EV's on are paved with petroleum byproducts.

I may be wrong, but it's possible many of your readers and the world's citizen in general may not think about how oil is engrained into our everyday modern lives.

Have you done research or can you provide references to others' research that readers can review? It may be that putting oil companies out of business completely may have some devastating, unintended consequences.

I would appreciate your help. With my current level of understanding I don't think I want to live, or possibly won't be able to survive, in world without oil companies and the products they provide.


Posted by Paly Grad, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Oct 27, 2022 at 6:22 pm

Paly Grad is a registered user.

What do you think of Chevron's take on its role and responsibilities in the transition to clean energy?

I think one of the best ways to encourage Chevron to contribute to the transition to clean energy is to tax Chevron and use 100% of the proceeds to fund renewable energy.


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Oct 27, 2022 at 8:47 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Kevin, it sounds like you have a great setup. I hope that in the next five years many of us will be able to use EV batteries during outages and times of grid stress, and get paid for it!

@Bruce, you may be interested to know that just today the IEA released a new report that said (among other things) that the Ukraine conflict is accelerating our move away from fossil fuels. Here is the peak they are now predicting in overall fossil fuel consumption:



And much of the reason behind their new optimism:



@Karl, great question. When people think about reducing fossil fuel use, they distinguish between relatively easy-to-abate sectors (e.g., light-duty transportation), harder-to-abate sectors (e.g., medium-length flights), and very hard-to-abate sectors (especially commercial/industrial manufacturing). One of the best resources on the hard to abate sectors is Rebecca Dell. You may want to listen to (or read transcripts of) interviews of her here and here and here. The CEC is actively soliciting proposals in some of these areas (e.g., industrial heating and cement manufacturing).

@PalyGrad: The oil and gas companies are making huge sums of money right now because of the very high global prices. You might be interested in the windfall tax that California is exploring.


Posted by Karl A, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 28, 2022 at 4:18 am

Karl A is a registered user.

Sherry
Those are very good resources concerning reducing emmissions from the use of oil and natural gas as energy sources.

My point is oil and natural gas are used for much more in our modern society. Many products use them as raw materials that make components that go into the “things" everyone uses probably without thinking about oil. Or the fact that natural gas is being used to make fertilizer to grow the world's food.

If their are no oil companies, these “things" we all use go away. Given our reliance on these “things" to support our lives, not having them would make life very difficult. No meds or CPAP machine would greatly reduce my quality of life (and more than likely shorten it significantly).


Posted by Eric Muller, a resident of Los Altos,
on Oct 28, 2022 at 9:11 am

Eric Muller is a registered user.

On industrial heating, I enjoyed the recent Cleaning Up podcast with Silvia Madeddu. Web Link


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Oct 29, 2022 at 11:40 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Eric, thanks for the pointer, that looks like a great podcast.

@Karl, I’m not sure I follow your question. The oil companies will not go out of business unless they fail to transition to cleaner alternatives. If they continue to produce fossil fuels at the rate they are now, they will ruin the planet. So they are transitioning, but not quickly, and this post says they should be doing more to accelerate the transition.

You are right that many things today have fossil fuels in their supply chains. That makes the transition more difficult. We start by thinking about the biggest and/or hardest applications. I mentioned some of the hardest ones -- think long flights, shipping, industrial heat, concrete and steel production, certain kinds of chemical reactions. With all of these, and the easier ones as well, we have a few options. One is to find an alternative (e.g., replace a gas engine with an electric one). Another is to use less (e.g., increase efficiency with new design and/or recycle the material). You can find research on new fertilizers and plastics and fuels (for example), and better efficiency and recycling of various kinds of materials. When all of these fail, it’s possible to capture and then bury most of the emissions from the fossil fuels when they are combusted, but it is pretty expensive. With the leverage that the oil and gas companies have with their partners and customers, there is a lot more they can be doing to accelerate the switch and keep prices from skyrocketing to cover carbon capture.

I don't know if this helps? If you are thinking that this transition is not an easy one, you are right! I wish we had started decades ago. But a lot of people are working on this, more every day, with all kinds of investment, and change is happening faster than ever. So there is hope.

It'd be interesting to do a post on what hospitals are doing to reduce their emissions. My guess is that the bulk of their emissions come from transportation and energy use, which they can reduce with tele-medicine, efficiency, and electrification. But I haven’t learned much about this.


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Nov 3, 2022 at 8:20 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

FWIW, a representative from Total Energies, a European energy company, was asked this same question about what they are doing to accelerate demand. His response was pretty different than that of Chevron's Breber. It was along the lines of "Yes, it's really a difficulty isn't it, that we don't control demand. So what do we do, we try to encourage people in different ways. As one example, there is a sort of chicken-and-egg thing between people adopting EVs and having enough chargers out there. So we decided, okay, we will put 150,000 chargers out there by 2025. The demand may not be out there yet, but we are doing this because we want to encourage this transition." An interesting contrast.


Posted by Abe, a resident of Monta Loma,
on Nov 8, 2022 at 10:07 pm

Abe is a registered user.

Another highly informative article, Sherry!

Besides a windfall tax on price gouging, there should be carbon pricing (the once and future market-based bipartisan approach?) and a phase-out of oil subsidies.

A desirable transition would be for oil companies to shift to green uses of their skills like superhot rock geothermal energy and scalable carbon capture via techniques like carbon mineralization.

Web Link


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