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BP CEO says oil and gas giant is a ‘green company’

A BP logo on display in London, UK, on ​​Tuesday February 2, 2021.

Chris J. Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

BP’s CEO called the oil and gas giant a “green company” that is carbon-intensive today but foresees a net-zero future.

His comments are likely to raise eyebrows in some quarters at a time when a number of governments have declared a climate emergency and speak of the enormous task facing the energy majors in the years to come.

Bernard Looney’s remarks were made during a panel discussion in Cairo, Egypt hosted by CNBC’s Hadley Gamble, where he spoke on issues related to the energy transition.

As part of the pivot to renewable energy, Looney said three criteria must be met: The energy must be cleaner, reliable and affordable. The problem was complex, he said.

“What we need to achieve is a world where certain things happen,” Looney said Monday. “First, our goal is to reduce emissions, not to defend sometimes ideological positions on ‘hydrocarbons or not’.”

“Our goal is to reduce emissions, and if burning natural gas rather than burning coal reduces emissions, we should take that step.”

Expanding on his point, Looney said that since hydrocarbons are “such an important part of the energy system today”, it was very hard to imagine how that would change overnight.

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“If we want this energy to remain affordable because we want this loop where people want the energy transition, we have to invest in these hydrocarbons and reduce emissions,” he said, before adding that his company was trying to do.

“The third thing is we need to support ‘green’ businesses,” Looney said, referring to a term his company has written about in the past. “And a green company is a carbon intensive company today like BP – some people would call it a very polluting company. Carbon intensive today, but has plans for net zero tomorrow – not tomorrow, but in the future. ”

Companies like this needed to be held accountable, challenged and made transparent, Looney said.

“But most importantly, they also need to be encouraged and supported, because you just can’t scale enough green businesses around the world fast enough, fast enough to solve this problem.”

“You have to have carbon-intensive businesses to become net zero, and that’s what we call a green business.”

A major oil and gas producer, BP says it aims to become a net zero company by 2050 or earlier. It is one of many large companies to have committed to net zero in recent years.

While such commitments attract attention, achieving them is a daunting task with significant financial and logistical hurdles. The devil is in the detail and goals can often be light on the latter.

Greenwashing charges

Looney’s comments come at a time when the debate around greenwashing is becoming increasingly fierce, with the accusation often leveled against multinational companies with large carbon footprints..

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace UK described greenwashing as a “public relations tactic” used “to make a company or product appear environmentally friendly without significantly reducing its environmental impact”.

Looney was asked if the greenwashing accusations had no basis. “I can only speak for myself,” he replied. “If you look at what we’ve done in the past 24 months, we’ve gone through the biggest restructuring in company history so we can transition.”

“We have a new strategy and a new capital allocation so that we can make the transition,” he said. “Almost 10,000 people lost their jobs, we had to cut our dividend in half. I don’t think anyone would say that’s actions consistent with a company that is greenwashing.”

“These are actions…consistent with a company that doesn’t have all the answers, makes mistakes, doesn’t do things right all the time. But we’re all for it to happen and do a difference.”

The effect of fossil fuels on the environment is considerable. The United Nations says that since the 19and century, “human activities have been the main driver of climate change, mainly due to the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas”.

And yet, despite the above, energy companies are still discovering new deposits and oil and gas continue to play a major role in the planet’s energy mix.

Last week, BP announced a massive increase in net profit for the full year, its highest level in eight years, supported by soaring commodity prices.

The British energy major recorded an underlying replacement cost profit, used as an indicator of net profit, of $12.8 billion for 2021. This compared to a net loss of $5.7 billion. dollars the previous year.


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