Shell Oil Should Not Be Allowed to Slow Down Renewables in Europe

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The shell that is the logo of Shell should be covered in oil. (Photo: frankieleon)

Newly uncovered documents, disclosed in The Guardian, reveal that Shell has successfully slowed down the growth of renewable energy in Europe.

According to an April 27 article in The Guardian, “Weak renewable energy goals for 2030 [for the EU] originated with [a] Shell pitch for gas as a key technology for Europe to cut its carbon emissions in an affordable way.”

Reading news websites, one comes across copious ads claiming that Shell is committed to a sustainable future for the earth. Their intent is to brand Shell as a company working to reduce environmental threats (and, by implication, global warming). Nothing could epitomize the hypocrisy of greenwashing and corporate ads on news content sites more than Shell’s Madison Avenue efforts to portray itself as environmentally responsible.

After all, just look on the Shell website, which promotes Arctic exploration for oil and natural gas:

It is estimated that the Arctic holds around 30% of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13% of its yet-to-find oil. This amounts to around 400 billion barrels of oil equivalent, 10 times the total oil and gas produced to date in the North Sea. Developing the Arctic could be essential to securing energy supplies for the future, but it will mean balancing economic, environmental and social challenges.

Given the history of oil production expansion and drilling, just how exactly will Shell balance “economic, environmental and social challenges”? Not very well, if the past is precedent.

On its website, Shell also champions deep-water drilling, a high-risk contributor to global warming:

Unlocking energy in the freezing, pitch-black waters kilometres below the ocean’s surface is a major technical challenge. Advanced technologies are also needed at the surface, where sea swell and storms hamper production platforms. But the vast resources of oil and gas that lie here hold great potential for supporting economic growth and helping to meet the world’s growing energy needs.

It is within the context of the avaricious continuation of fossil fuel exploration that Shell’s PR consultants attempt to transform its image into one of a planet-friendly company.

It is also within this context that Shell prevailed last year in reducing targets for conversion to renewable energy within EU nations, according to the information uncovered by The Guardian.

Shell had the help of the UK in achieving its self-serving slowdown of renewables in Europe. The UK, after all, has two reasons to side with Shell’s proposal: 1) It takes its lead on fossil fuels from the dominating partner in the Atlantic Alliance, the United States; and 2) BP, according to Forbes, is the second largest company in the UK. Moreover, although it is headquartered in the Netherlands, the Financial Times (FT) regards Royal Dutch Shell as incorporated in the UK and, as a result, the largest company in the UK (scroll down to the “UK 500 2014” – after opening the preceding hyperlink – and open the file to view the Royal Dutch Shell ranking in the UK by the FT).  Regardless of whether Royal Dutch Shell is technically a UK company or not, it has long and deep ties to the UK. As in the US, such corporate wealth can buy you a whole lot of public policy, in this case promoted by BP’s fossil fuel colleague, Shell.

As The Guardian describes Shell’s role in the formation of the UK’s energy policy:

“Shell has a lot of clout in the UK, where they are very active in the policy debate,” a source close to the lobbying discussions said. “That is partly because the UK likes to have companies saying what the UK government wants to hear.”

The UK stood behind Shell and prevailed in how to implement the 2030 EU carbon reduction policy.

The result of Shell’s “market-led strategy of gas expansion” – as the Guardian calls it – is that the EU adopted a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030, but dramatically reduced the role of renewables in reaching that target.

As a result – given the indifference of the fossil fuel industry to global warming – the 40 percent figure appears to be more of a public relations gesture to provide the appearance of reducing climate change than an attainable objective.

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