Big oil had its day of reckoning: now the world must keep up the momentum


Anacortes Refinery (Marathon), at the northern end of March Point, southeast of Anacortes, Washington, USA Image – Walter Siegmund CC SA 2..0

A Dutch court was in charge of Shell on Wednesday for greenhouse gas emissions; an activist investor staged a coup and installed board members at ExxonMobil and Chevron shareholders pushed for a carbon reduction plan.

Interestingly, before the courts, Royal Dutch Shell argued that global emissions were not subject to Dutch law, saying that “the plaintiff’s claims were a matter for the legislators and that the company was acting lawfully and its emissions were allowed. “, seconds Reuters.

However, Michael Burger, a litigation specialist representing U.S. local governments on climate cases, notes that while the court’s decision was based on Dutch law, “the duty of care” is the same. in legal systems around the world.

And this “duty to care” has been reduced to the public and is evident around the world when people experience first-hand the impacts of the climate crisis. And right now, as a planet, we have a duty to see that greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, as the planet runs the same risk as our lives.

Ars Technica reported a German court ruling last month that overturned part of the nation’s comprehensive climate law, saying it violates people’s freedoms. But it’s not what you might think.

Germany has already reduced its carbon pollution by 35 percent, leaving another 20 percent in the next nine years. And this is where the court found fault with the law, saying it left too much burden on future generations.

“The regulations irreversibly postpone high emission reduction charges until periods after 2030,” the Constitutional Court said. he wrote in a statement explaining the sentence.

ExxonMobil Oil Refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, seen from the Capitol Tower. Image – Adbar, CC SA 3.0

Three Exxon refineries top the U.S. pollutant list

It is a fact that oil and gas production disproportionate impact on poor and minority communities. These communities are often located near industrial sites. And small particles are the most harmful pollutant in these neighborhoods, responsible for respiratory problems and damage to the heart, lungs and nervous system.

“Particulate pollution is deadly, but you won’t see it written on anyone’s headstone,” said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project, a Washington-based monitoring group.

The APE requires plants to restrict emissions of small particles to 1 pound or less for every 1,000 pounds of coke burned in a refinery’s catalytic cracking units. But there is a problem. Exxon’s Baton Rouge plant is the only large American refinery that does not have to meet this requirement.

This is because the EPA has a rule that exempts “cat crackers” that were built before 1976 and have not changed since. Exxon’s small particulate matter emissions reached a maximum of £ 350 per hour during an independent test conducted in January 2020 by an Exxon engineering company contracted to demonstrate compliance with regulations.

Exxon Refineries they produce much smaller particulate pollution than rivals

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ), like the environmental quality departments of other states, sets its own emission standards, and Louisiana has some of the highest limits in the country. In this case, the LDEQ limit for small particles is set at 234 pounds per hour, a difference quite different from the EPA standard of 1 pound or less for every 1,000 pounds of coke burned every hour.

And this is just an Exxon refinery in Louisiana. The firm’s three largest refineries based in Texas, two in Texas and one in Louisiana, are the nation’s top three small particle emitters, according to federal regulators.

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More than 530,000 people live within three kilometers of the 13 refineries with the highest emission levels in 2020, with 57% of people of color and 43% living below the poverty line, according to a report by the Environmental Integrity Project.Environmental justice and pollution by refinery“.

Things will not be the same after this week

We could say that this past week is an interruption, but it may be an overly simple explanation of what has happened in the way companies, investors and the public view big oil today. You could say the world has had an awakening.

Shell ordered to reduce emissions in a Dutch climate case
Shell must reduce its carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030, according to Dutch court – Copyright POOL / AFP Alex Brandon

In recent years, several Western oil and gas companies have changed brands, moving from integrated oil and gas companies to integrated energy companies. Statoil is now Equinor, Danish oil and natural gas are now Orsted, with most of its portfolio focused on offshore wind energy and renewable energy.

The urgency of the emissions situation is real and we cannot underestimate what is happening with our climate. The most recent AIE report calls for stopping oil and gas production next year for the world to meet the 2050 zero-2050 targets. But that leaves a big question unanswered: Will the oil industry heed the warning?

Fossil fuel companies will continue to produce as long as countries continue to buy, that is a fact. But the good news is that the world is getting closer to decarbonization, according to him The hill. It will still take a while and we can’t give up.

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