Reconciling the fossil fuel industry with climate goals

Reconciling the fossil fuel industry with climate goals

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Responding to the threat of climate change and continuing to produce fossil fuels seem like opposing and irreconcilable poles.

Those who advocate for sustainability are often labeled ideologues, while those who defend the production of fossil fuels are seen as complicit in environmental degradation. However, neither extreme will lead us to success. As we transition to net zero, the world will need to run two energy systems in parallel.

Decarbonization will undoubtedly take time, similar to the time it took to build our dependence on fossil fuels. The key is to ensure a balanced approach that prioritizes sustainability, affordability, and security, all within the context of economic responsibility and fairness for developing nations.

While the adoption of renewable energy sources is rapidly gaining momentum, oil and natural gas still account for 54.8 percent of global energy consumption, according to the 2024 Statistical Review of World Energy.

The oil and gas industry plays a pivotal role, both in providing the energy that drives today’s economy and in enabling energy transition for the future.

I would even go further and say that the technical expertise, required capital, extensive value chain, experience in capital optimization, familiarity with complex operations and markets, and mastery of the technology necessary to achieve the transition to a low-carbon economy can all be found in oil companies.

Keeping oil companies profitable and leveraging their strengths will be crucial to accelerating the energy transition.

While some oil companies aiming for net zero are making strides in certain areas, they are falling short when it comes to developing low-emission fossil fuels, which refers to the extraction, processing and use of oil and gas in ways that minimize environmental impact.

This contrasts with recent advancements in other heavy industries, where innovations like green cement, iron, and steel production are demonstrating the feasibility of reducing emissions, even at a premium. The oil and gas industry needs to catch up.

“There is some value in this ‘green oil’ label. In general it is welcome to have fossil fuels with low or zero production emissions as they represent 12 percent of the total equivalent CO2 emissions,” Andy Brown, Shell’s former upstream director and executive committee member, who also served as CEO of Galp, told me.

Since 2019, companies like BP, Lundin Energy, Occidental Petroleum, Petronas, Eni, Total, and Shell have offered “carbon neutral” oil and liquefied natural gas, some of them with a price premium and reputational gains.

Keeping oil companies profitable and leveraging their strengths will be crucial to accelerating the energy transition.

Rodrigo Tavares

But transparency is key when branding these products as “green oil.” For the term to be accurate, clear regulations defining what constitutes carbon-neutral crude oil are needed. This would include a universal methodology for calculating emissions throughout the industry.

Additionally, certification for carbon neutrality should be consistent, and oil majors would need to address emissions across their products’ entire life cycle.

Most importantly, achieving it could not rely solely on the purchase and retirement of carbon credits to compensate for the calculated lifecycle CO2e emissions of the product. “Offsets have increasingly been discredited as a way to claim abatement,” said Brown. Priority should be given to switching to lower operational greenhouse gas emissions.

Tellingly, just a couple of months ago, staff at the UN-backed Science Based Targets initiative, which certifies whether a company is on track to help limit global warming to under 1.5 C, expressed concern after plans were announced to allow companies to meet their climate targets with carbon offsets.

As we are still far from reaching this scenario, existing carbon crediting organizations like Verra lack the necessary standards for oil companies to generate carbon credits based on emission reductions.

But while “green oil” is difficult to attain, that should not preclude oil companies from pursuing product carbon reductions, aiming at positive impact and economic upsides.

But how can firms maximize returns on investment and minimize emissions per barrel?

Scaling up electrification, especially through renewable electricity, investing in energy efficiency, reducing fugitive methane emissions, venting and routine flaring, and improving geological surveying and digital technologies to decrease the number of dry holes are all viable options.

Carbon capture, utilization, and storage is another avenue. Aramco is currently developing one of the largest CCUS hubs in the world at Jubail Industrial City.

Through the 2023 Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter, the 2015 “Zero Routine Flaring by 2030” Initiative, and the 2014 Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, oil majors pledge to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and adopt targets for reducing carbon dioxide and methane emissions. And all leading oil companies have established net zero targets. These are important steps.

The future may see carbon intensity become as important a factor in valuing crude oil as American Petroleum Institute gravity and sulfur content are today, directly impacting its price.

International energy and sustainability organizations should establish clear methodologies, criteria, and standards for oil and gas to be classified as “low carbon” — a more achievable target than “green” or “carbon neutral.”

Only then can a price premium be realistically introduced into market dynamics.

Potential buyers include environmentally conscious refiners, who can leverage low-carbon oil to market cleaner fuels and sustainable products. Airlines and shipping companies, facing increasing pressure to reduce emissions, are also potential customers, as many have adopted ambitious carbon neutrality pledges.

One should note that governments worldwide are implementing mandatory carbon pricing schemes where polluters pay for their emissions, making low-carbon oil even more attractive.

While low carbon oil shows promise, it is just one step. We must prioritize replacing fossil fuels altogether with renewable sources.

Rodrigo Tavares is an invited full professor of sustainable finance at Nova School of Business and Economics, founder and CEO of the Granito Group, and former head of the Office of Foreign Affairs of the Sao Paulo state government.

 

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view

Israel’s Gaza violations in spotlight as Russian foreign minister chairs UN Security Council meeting 

Israel’s Gaza violations in spotlight as Russian foreign minister chairs UN Security Council meeting 
Updated 3 min 1 sec ago
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Israel’s Gaza violations in spotlight as Russian foreign minister chairs UN Security Council meeting 

Israel’s Gaza violations in spotlight as Russian foreign minister chairs UN Security Council meeting 
  • Israeli envoy warns council that if full-scale war breaks out between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iran will be to blame 
  • Minister Sergey Lavrov talks of hopes for rapprochement among Gulf states, to overcome their differences and work together to help the Palestinian people 

NEW YORK CITY: Speaking on behalf of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday, his chef de cabinet, Courtenay Rattray, called for the violence in Gaza to end and all parties involved in the conflict to “reach a deal, now.” 

He said the humanitarian situation in the territory has become “a moral stain on us all,” and added: “Amid continued reports of serious abuses against Palestinians in Israeli custody, I reiterate that all detainees must be treated humanely and those held without lawful cause must be released. And this terrible war must end.” 

Speaking during a meeting of the Security Council to discuss Palestine, he underscored the importance of “ensuring that governance is restored in Gaza under a single, legitimate Palestinian government,” support for which is “critical.” 

Riyad Mansour, Palestine’s permanent observer at the UN, accused Israel of killing those people most deserving of protection, “including children, humanitarians, doctors (and) journalists,” and of defying “every nation on earth” and “every organ ever set up to uphold the most fundamental rules.” 

Riyad H. Mansour, permanent observer of Palestine to the United Nations, addresses delegates during a meeting of the UN Council in New York City on July 17, 2024. (Reuters)

He said: “What is happening in Gaza will go down as the most-documented genocide in history. How cruel could you be? How criminal must you be to bomb the same population, over and over and over again? 

“Israel has manufactured a humanitarian catastrophe with famine as its core, starvation, dehydration and the spread of diseases as ultimate weapons. 

“(Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu does not care about Palestinian lives or even the hostages’ lives. He does not care about international law or human decency. He only cares about his own political survival. So what will you do to ensure this lunatic is not the one calling the shots, continuing this genocidal war against the Palestinian people?” 

The Palestinian envoy vowed that his people would live “in freedom and dignity on their ancestral land. They will accept nothing less, they will accept nothing else but fulfilling this right. 

“Being killed, maimed, oppressed, detained, starved, displaced is not our fate. There is a path to peace and prosperity.” 

Mansour called on the Security Council to “strengthen those who seek peace rather than arm those who seek extermination; sanction those who colonize rather than allowing them to punish those who oppose the uprooting and displacement of communities; protect the victims rather than the perpetrators; recognize the state of Palestine rather than witness the destruction of the two-state solution.” 

In his speech to the council, Israel’s envoy to the UN, Gilad Erdan, focused solely on Iran, accusing the regime in Tehran of being “obsessed with killing Jews everywhere, not only in Israel.” 

He said: “Iran has a global reach and it’s exporting its bloodshed and destruction to the four corners of Earth. 

“If one looks at all of the major conflicts in the Middle East, one finds the nefarious fingers of Iran. The people of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and many others have all suffered because of Iran’s attempts to inflame the region.” 

Erdan said that since the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas last year, Israel has also come under assault from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and that “all of the terrorist groups targeting us have one thing in common: they are directed from Tehran.” 

He warned: “If we reach a situation of full-scale war in Lebanon, it is only because Hezbollah has shot thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians with the support and funding of Iran. You cannot say you didn’t know.” 

Erdan also warned the regime in Tehran that if it continues to threaten the region “it will find that its days are numbered. The proud Iranian people have had enough. The good people of the Middle East have had enough and so have we.” 

Russia holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council this month and the meeting was chaired by Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister. He said a “frank and honest conversation” is needed about how best to immediately stop the bloodshed in Gaza and move toward the long-term settlement of “both long-standing and relatively new conflicts in the region.” 

He added: “From the outset, we have highly valued the constructive potential of the Arab Peace Initiative launched by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2002. At the same time, we respected the decision of a number of Arab states to normalize relations with Israel prior to the resolution of the Palestinian question.” 

Lavrov accused the US of becoming a direct accomplice in the conflict in Gaza “by providing diplomatic cover for Israel's actions and supplying (it with) arms and ammunition, just as it has done with the situation in Ukraine. 

“If the US were to end its support, the bloodshed would stop but the US is either unwilling or unable to do so. It seems its goal is not saving human lives but various maneuvers that would help to score more points during the election campaign.” 

He highlighted the important role the Gulf states can play and said the recent Iranian elections, and initial statements by the country’s new president, Masoud Pezeshkian, give “hope for rapprochement among all the countries of the Gulf in the interests of overcoming long-standing differences and mistrust, and joining efforts to determine the parameters of their own mutual security without external interference, and to speak with one voice to realize the aspirations of the Palestinian people and generally build an architecture of stability and good neighbors.” 

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US representative at the UN, said progress is being made on a ceasefire deal. Israel and Hamas have both agreed to the framework for an agreement, which was endorsed by the Security Council in its adoption of Resolution 2735 on June 10, although there are still gaps to be closed, she said as she called on council members to maintain pressure on Hamas to accept the deal and begin implementing it “without delay and without conditions.” 

She added: “We’re hopeful that a ceasefire in Gaza would assist diplomacy aimed at deescalating the situation along the blue line, which is necessary to enable displaced people in Israel and Lebanon to return home.” 

Thomas-Greenfield condemned in “the strongest terms” the significant increase in deadly violence against Palestinian civilians by extremist settlers in the West Bank, and reiterated Washington’s concern about a recent announcement by Israeli authorities of settlement expansion, which she said is “inconsistent with international law and detrimental to the two-state solution.” 

Slovenia’s envoy, Samuel Zbogar, said: “There is no moral equality between Israel and Hamas. However, the conduct of both actors against civilians is deplorable and constitutes a crime. 

“Neither Hamas nor Israel care about civilians. Hamas is hiding among IDPs (internally displaced persons) and thus endangering lives of their fellow Palestinians, while Israel is showing complete disregard for the suffering of civilians, in (its) pursuit of Hamas.” 


Biden tests positive for COVID-19, White House says

Biden tests positive for COVID-19, White House says
Updated 3 min 28 sec ago
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Biden tests positive for COVID-19, White House says

Biden tests positive for COVID-19, White House says

US President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19 while on a campaign trip to Las Vegas on Wednesday and is experiencing mild symptoms, the White House said.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced the positive test for the 81-year-old Democrat after the president of UnidosUS, a Latino civil rights organization, said Biden would not be able to speak at a scheduled event due to the diagnosis.
“He is vaccinated and boosted and experiencing mild symptoms, Jean-Pierre said.


‘Of all the places’: Deep red Butler, Pennsylvania, grapples with Trump assassination attempt

‘Of all the places’: Deep red Butler, Pennsylvania, grapples with Trump assassination attempt
Updated 8 min 13 sec ago
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‘Of all the places’: Deep red Butler, Pennsylvania, grapples with Trump assassination attempt

‘Of all the places’: Deep red Butler, Pennsylvania, grapples with Trump assassination attempt
  • Butler, home to some 13,000 people, and the county whose grand courthouse graces its square are named for a Revolutionary War general

BUTLER, Pennsylvania: On the streets of Butler, Pennsylvania, in the wake of Saturday’s assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump, the same four words have been spoken again and again: “Of all the places.”
Butler, home to some 13,000 people, and the county whose grand courthouse graces its square are named for a Revolutionary War general. American flags wave along its main drag alongside black-and-white photos of local heroes who died in other wars fought in the name of democracy. The first jeep was produced here in 1940 at the request of the US Army.
It’s rural. It’s neighborly. And it’s Trump country.
“Of all the places to go after him and try something. We’re like, in Butler County?” said Cindy Michael, a 44-year-old health care worker. “Everybody’s just shocked. So shocked.”
Trump isn’t the first person to have held the office of president who has been the target of a shooting in the area. Long before he became the nation’s first president, George Washington “narrowly escaped death” when a Native American shot at him from less than 15 paces away. A state historical marker marks the spot on a trail about 14 miles (22 kilometers) southwest of Butler.
This county on the western edge of a presidential swing state is a Trump stronghold. He won Butler County — where turnout hovers around an impressive 80 percent — with about 66 percent of the vote in both 2016 and 2020. About 57 percent of Butler County’s 139,000 registered voters are Republicans, compared with about 29 percent who are Democrats and 14 percent something else.
Between 2016 and 2020, Trump gained nearly 10,000 more votes in Butler County, but that wasn’t enough for him to carry Pennsylvania. Gains by President Joe Biden in the state’s cities and suburbs — and he secured 9,000 more votes in Butler County than Hillary Clinton in 2016 — helped him displace Trump from the White House.
Still, Butler County’s support for Trump runs deep. Local attorney Patrick Casey said that may have been part of the problem.
“A friend said to me this morning, ‘I think everyone assumed that Donald Trump would be safe in Butler County,’ and I replied to that friend by reminding him that when Pope John Paul II was shot in an assassination attempt, it occurred in Vatican City,” Casey said. “Who would have thought there could have been a safer place than that?”
Indeed, the atmosphere was relaxed and neighborly at the Butler County fairgrounds on the day of the rally. Couples held hands, parents corralled their children, a woman accompanied her 75-year-old mother for a birthday treat. That was until 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks fired shots, including the one that Trump says struck his ear. A Secret Service sniper returned fire and killed Crooks. A bystander was shot and killed, and two more were injured.
Whether Butler can even approach a return to normal remains to be seen.
“We are deeply saddened by what has occurred here in our hometown,” Brenckle’s Farm and Greenhouse, which is located just outside the fairgrounds where the shooting happened, said in a Facebook post Monday. “Butler is a peaceful community and all who live here share similar qualities. The community is kind, generous and would give you the shirt off of their back if you needed it.”
While what happened that day weighs heavily on residents’ hearts, it did not appear to be swaying their votes. Some Trump supporters said the assassination attempt strengthened their resolve to vote for him while others said it didn’t impact their political feelings at all.
Victoria Rhodes, 25, a nurse who moved to Butler four months ago from Nashville, Tennessee, said she is still deciding how she will vote in November. She said what just happened in her new hometown isn’t a factor.
“This will be my first time voting in a presidential election,” she said. “I think I’m still trying to decide, because the political scene right now is kind of crazy.” While she is hopeful the assassination attempt will turn down the temperature on America’s political conversation, she said her experience has been that friends her age are able to speak about their political differences without anger.
Jamie Brackley, who manages the motorcycle shop in downtown Butler, called himself “a neither” in terms of declaring a political party. As for whether the attempt on Trump’s life will affect his politics, he said: “No. I’m a conspiracy theorist already, so it doesn’t affect me one way or another.”
Democrat Laneice Olesnevich, 66, has lived all her life in Butler. She called it “a good Christian town.”
Olesnevich said she remains undecided on her choice for president but that the assassination attempt wouldn’t affect her decision. Rather, she was waiting for more information on Trump’s running mate — he selected US Sen. JD Vance, of Ohio, later on Monday — and on Biden’s health.
“I feel bad for those parents of that young man, because you know their life now has become a living hell, and I don’t think (what he did) will make any difference in my decision,” she said.
She added: “I pray for this country daily, because we definitely need something to change everybody’s anger.”
In a place where people know each other, it’s common to consider the impact of such a cataclysmic event on individual people, especially those with a direct connection to what happened. It’s one more reason why the shock will linger for years.
“The world’s a crazy place,” said Jodie Snider, of nearby Clarion, a retired police officer, Army officer and sharpshooter, who was visiting the Butler County Courthouse on Monday. “Of all places, Butler.”


Who is Usha Vance? Yale law graduate and wife of vice presidential nominee JD Vance

Who is Usha Vance? Yale law graduate and wife of vice presidential nominee JD Vance
Updated 57 min 48 sec ago
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Who is Usha Vance? Yale law graduate and wife of vice presidential nominee JD Vance

Who is Usha Vance? Yale law graduate and wife of vice presidential nominee JD Vance
  • Chilukuri Vance left the law firm where she worked shortly after her husband was chosen as Trump’s running mate

WASHINGTON: Usha Chilukuri Vance, Yale law graduate and trial lawyer, was thrust into the spotlight this week after her husband, JD Vance, was chosen as Donald Trump’s running mate in the 2024 presidential election.
Chilukuri Vance, 38, was raised in San Diego, by Indian immigrants. Her mother is a biologist and provost at the University of California at San Diego; her father is an engineer, according to JD Vance’s campaign. She received an undergraduate degree at Yale University and a master of philosophy at the University of Cambridge through the Gates Cambridge scholarship.
After Cambridge, she met her husband back at Yale, where the two studied law. In his 2016 memoir, “Hillbilly Elegy,” JD Vance said the two got to know each other through a class assignment, where he soon “fell hard” for his writing partner.
“In a place that always seemed a little foreign, Usha’s presence made me feel at home,” he wrote.
They graduated in 2013 and wed the following year.
After law school, Chilukuri Vance spent a year clerking for Justice Brett Kavanaugh when he served as an appeals court judge in Washington, followed by a year as a law clerk to Chief Justice John Roberts.
She has since become a trial lawyer for the Munger, Tolles and Olson law firm at its San Francisco and D.C. offices. Chilukuri Vance left the law firm where she worked shortly after her husband was chosen as Trump’s running mate.
“Usha has informed us she has decided to leave the firm,” Munger, Tolles & Olson said in a statement. “Usha has been an excellent lawyer and colleague, and we thank her for her years of work and wish her the best in her future career.”
Chilukuri Vance was not available Tuesday for comment, according to a spokeswoman for JD Vance’s campaign.
In his memoir, Vance credited part of his success and happiness to his wife.
“Even at my best, I’m a delayed explosion— I can be defused, but only with skill and precision,” Vance wrote. “It’s not just that I’ve learned to control myself but that Usha has learned how to manage me.”
Voter records show that as of 2022, Chilukuri Vance was a registered Republican in Ohio, and voted in the Republican primary that year — the same election that her husband was running in the Republican senate primary.
JD and Usha Vance live in Cincinnati, and have three children: Ewan, Vivek and Mirabel. Outside of work, she served on the Cincinnati Symphony Board of Directors from September 2020 to July 2023.


Explosions heard in Kyiv, air raid alert sounds: AFP

Explosions heard in Kyiv, air raid alert sounds: AFP
Updated 57 min 57 sec ago
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Explosions heard in Kyiv, air raid alert sounds: AFP

Explosions heard in Kyiv, air raid alert sounds: AFP
  • Kyiv was rocked last week by a Russian missile barrage that devastated a renowned children’s hospital

KYIV, Ukraine: Explosions rang out over the Ukrainian capital Kyiv late Wednesday and air raid sirens sounded, as officials urged residents to take shelter over the threat of a Russian aerial attack.
AFP journalists in central Kyiv reported hearing loud blasts echo over the city while Mayor Vitali Klitschko said air defense systems had opened fire.
He said emergency services were working on the scene where debris from a Russian drone had been shot down.
Ukrainian officials have been appealing to the country’s Western allies for more air defense systems to thwart a spate of fatal Russian drone and missile attacks.
Kyiv was rocked last week by a Russian missile barrage that devastated a renowned children’s hospital and sparked a wave of international condemnation.
The Kremlin said the damage to the facility in the center of the capital had been caused by Ukrainian air defense systems.