Yesterday, I blogged about how one energy economist has predicted that a decade of low oil prices; increasing action on climate change and cheaper renewables, means that “nightfall is coming” for Big Oil.
They predicted the “lumbering dinosaurs of big oil are doomed”.
If the dinosaurs are going to avoid extinction, a new report by the accountancy firm PwC argues the oil industry needs to look beyond the current crisis caused by the oil price crash and examine the other threats to its existence including the low carbon energy transition.
According to the BusinessGreen website, the report contends what the industry’s critics have been arguing for two decades, that the companies must “reconsider their portfolios in the face of growing pressure to decarbonise.”
Viren Doshi, PwC’s strategy oil and gas leader, says “Momentum to replace fossil fuels with cleaner energy sources is building, and oil and gas companies need to consider their futures in this context.”
Doshi argues that “time and again, successful operators have demonstrated the ability to respond to challenges by taking a long term view, innovating, adapting and gauging major trends as they define medium-long term investment plans. And we are convinced that they can do so again.”
But Doshi forgets that the “lumbering dinosaurs” of Big Oil are not nimble-footed forward-thinking animals. They have spent two decades trying to undermine action on climate change, when they could have fast-tracked the clean energy revolution. And old dirty habits die hard.
Let us not forget that Exxon is now being investigated by both the Attorney Generals of New York and California for lying over climate change.
You would have thought that given the battering of the oil price and the fact the companies are shedding jobs at a frightening pace that finally the dinosaurs would have realised it was time to shed their belligerent oil-skins and metamorphose into something greener. But rather than joining the renewable revolution, they are trying to kill it.
As the OilPrice website reported yesterday “Now that solar power is reaching prime time, the fossil fuel industry is doing all that it can to stop its growth.”
Solar is growing rapidly in the US. Last year, some 16 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity were installed and the cost of solar installation has halved in recent years.
As Oilprice point out: As solar has grown the “backlash from incumbent industries has also sprung to life. With solar and wind suddenly eclipsing fossil fuels as a preferred option for new power plant capacity, utilities and other fossil fuel interests are moving quickly to disrupt the progress of clean energy.”
The battle over solar has been intense in Nevada, where NV Energy, subsidiary of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, managed to “convince” the Nevada Public Utilities Commission to radically alter the rules for solar, which could decimate the solar industry in the state. The Commission imposed some of the most extreme solar rate hikes in the US on both new and existing solar customers.
Some residents may see their electricity bills increase by a whopping by 300 percent above what they would have been if they had not installed solar.
SolarCity, America’s largest solar provider, has since announced it is pulling out of Nevada, as has another solar company, Sunrun which is now suing the state. SolarCity’s share price has taken a hammering since the new rules were announced in December.
The fight is still continuing. Last Friday, Nevada utility regulators dealt their latest blow by refusing to reconsider their decision to erase solar credits. Chandler Sherman, a spokeswoman for SolarCity, said in a statement the decision leaves 17,000 Nevada households “stranded” by the decision.
The fightback from fossil fuel interests and utilities is also happening in Arizona and Florida; Oklahoma; Ohio and Kansas. Last week, Rolling Stone published a long article entitled: “The Koch Brothers’ Dirty War on Solar Power.”
The article highlighted how: “nowhere has the solar industry been more eclipsed than in Florida, where the utilities’ powers of obstruction are unrivaled.”
Let us not forget that it is the Koch Brothers who have also financed most of the recent climate denial too. The secretive brothers have donated some $80 million to groups denying climate change science since 1997.
And for killing solar and funding climate denial, the brothers remain two of the most influential and destructive Big Oil dinosaurs.