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Oil Industry Ponders Getting ‘Dragged into Low-Carbon Future’ While Claiming it ‘Stepped up’ on Climate

Oil Industry Ponders Getting ‘Dragged into Low-Carbon Future’ While Claiming it ‘Stepped up’ on Climate

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The fossil fuel industry’s faith that the modern world economy will be powered by its products for the indefinite future is usually unwavering. But cracks in that faith recently appeared in Houston at the top annual oil industry conference, known as CERAweek.

The trade publication Platts S&P Global noted that “talk of oil at CERAWeek felt a bit more lackluster this time around,” according to several attendees. Various pressures — from climate-anxious investors to competition from renewables — apparently are tempering the oil and gas industry’s usual optimism.

Perhaps also contributing to the mood was Norway’s announcement, just a day before the conference began, that its sovereign wealth fund was divesting from over 100 oil and gas exploration companies around the world. This news led to headlines like “World’s largest sovereign wealth fund to scrap oil and gas stocks.” Its fund managers were clear this decision wasn’t out of concern for the climate, but instead to make sure they didn’t lose money on risky oil and gas investments. 

Only a few years ago, however, CERAweek was brimming with industry bravado, in which oil company CEOs mocked renewable energy sources and made claims that the oil industry just wanted to lift poor people out of poverty.

At the 2014 conference, attendees even heard Gina McCarthy — the Obama-appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency at the time — promise that “[c]onventional fuels like coal and natural gas are going to play a critical role in a diverse energy mix for years to come.”

Oil and Gas ‘Crisis of Confidence’

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