Governments may soon find that the scale of the decarbonization challenge leaves them with no choice but to work with oil and gas companies, says Paul Beijer, director of GR-IQ.
Governments may soon find that the scale of the decarbonization challenge leaves them with no choice but to work with oil and gas companies, argues Paul Beijerresponsible for the GR-IQ.
“Their skill to deliver big projects is what governments need now,” Beijer says, citing the infrastructure challenge presented by the “systemic transition” to net zero. “It’s not enough to cobble together a level of subsidy… I see [that governments will] take central control and all of a sudden these big companies, who know how to do big things, are at the table. Because they have the expertise.
Beijer, who worked as vice president of government relations at oil major Shell until 2019, also cited the value of the companies’ inherited assets and large balance sheets to fund the investments. Shell has a market capitalization of $185 billion at press time.
The sincerity of Big Oil in question
Christopher CaldwellCEO of United Renewables and host of the Climate Conversations episode Beijer appears on this week, pushing back on the idea, asking “Isn’t that like asking Philip Morris how to quit smoking?”
Fossil fuel companies have been widely criticized for resisting action on climate change, through pressure, fund climate denial and spread disinformation. Public attempts to rebrand oil majors – such as BP’s “Beyond Petroleum” campaign – have been widely deemed a failure.
But this time it’s different for fossil fuel companies, says Beijer, because “as long as you believe there’s an irreversible trend towards renewables…they realize it’s an existential crisis if they’re going ‘stick to their guns’.
Use existing infrastructure
Building a hydrogen grid to power clean industry was a use case discussed by Caldwell and Beijer. A 209 IEA report has identified hydrogen as a transition fuel for hard-to-decarbonize industries, such as chemicals, steel, as well as the lowest cost option for storing renewable energy.
“Hydrogen is just another gas…you can use some of the existing infrastructure that energy companies currently operate to distribute hydrogen,” Beijer says. Without the cooperation and coordination of the fossil fuel companies that run these networks, deploying hydrogen distribution across the economy can be extremely costly or time-consuming. This alone is a reason for traditional energy companies “to stay involved in this particular transition and to be taken seriously”.
Climate Conversations invites leading academics and business leaders to offer their expertise to bring a new angle to the debate on climate change. Previous guests include Sir Andrew Likierman and Kritika Kumar.
The last episode, starring Paul Beijer, will be released on the 29the July 2022. The full video of the interview will be available here.
All previous episodes can be found here.
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