The ‘net zero’ con trick

Last month the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, together with Oil and Gas UK released the text of the North Sea Transition Deal.  We will look at this document in more detail in a future post. 

Suffice it to say that this is ‘transition’ that references the climate crisis, and talks about net zero, but is wholly driven by the interests of the oil industry.  The two big ticket items in the strategy are ‘Carbon Capture and Storage’ and ‘Hydrogen’.  And although the document comes out of Westminster, the minutes of the North Sea Transition Forum that brings together the industry with the UK and Scottish governments, suggest that Holyrood is on board with the strategy. 

A case study on the Oil and Gas UK website illustrates the kind of thinking that informs the strategy.  The study is headlined 

Injecting new life into assets – Supporting Net-Zero goals and producing more oil. A novel polymer flooding agent is helping to improve field recovery rates and accelerate the energy transition process.

You may need to read those headlines a few times!  The new polymer makes it easier to extract the oil.  This reduces the amount of carbon emissions associated with the effort of extraction.  Oil is pumped faster, and more oil can be extracted from a given reservoir.  So, there’s a small reduction in emissions at the point of production and more oil released into the system.  The magic here is that we are not supposed to count this massively greater amount of carbon because the greenhouse gases will be captured (by as yet unavailable technology).  And, of course, the polymer is available now – the oil is being pumped now – and carbon capture may be available at some unknown point in the future.  

Check out Scot.E3’s campaigning pledge for COP26 which outlines action to cut through the greenwashing and magical thinking that currently characterises policy on transition from fossil fuels.

Photo by Snapper CC BY 2.o

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