How should the oil and gas industry respond to global warming?
Global warming is a contemporary serious threat to our planet for the combustion of oil, coal, and natural gas contributes in changing the atmospheric balance of carbon dioxide, and other naturally occurring ‘trace gases’ as well as chemicals created by various oil and gas industries. Current threat to global warming is from the oil industries which after burning petroleum products seek ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions while looking after investment in sustainable energy.
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The oil industry has been periodically threatened by public perceptions as monopolistic, greedy, and, in the later part of the century, insensitive to the natural environment, however this is not the case (Livesey, 2002). On tackling global warming, many suggestions and policies have been adopted up till now of which the most implementable were taxation system on carbon, trading system, or adopting some kind of climate policy so as to devise an effective energy strategy are the most well known (Krauss & Mouawad, 11 Feb 2009). U.S oil refinery was the first to admit the inefficiency of Kyoto Pact, and the failure to limit emissions of greenhouse gases.
Even sustainable alternative solutions to our oil addiction have been provided to the oil and gas sector like implementing taxes on profits, closing the room escape paying royalties, dedicating fresh revenues to clean energy, establishing strategies, and improving fuel consumption to reduce gasoline demand (Slocum, Sept 2006). Despite all the deployed strategies of oil industry to reduce global warming, Oil and gas sector is yet seeking alternatives to control global warming or greenhouse effect.
Being the world’s largest solar-energy company, British Petroleum seeks ways to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from its refineries and increase use of cleaner natural gas as opposed to oil. When company officials believe they can reduce greenhouse-gas emissions even without compromising either growth or profits, it seems they are in a surrealistic position (Johansen, 2002, p. 110) since British Petroleum’s 90 business units plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions mainly by improving energy efficiency and using new technology have not worked well enough to cope up with the problem. For example, British Petroleum despite installing new technology to enhance oil flow has not completely eliminated a number of pumping stations on various pipelines. No doubt this move has reduced carbon dioxide emissions on sites by 236,000 tons a year but still is not an ideal mode of response to global warming (BP, 2009a). Therefore oil and gas refineries now plans to meet its goals with advice from groups such as Environmental Defense, as well as its own engineers and other employees.
The oil companies wanting to contribute towards global warming phenomenon actually mean that they want to continue to install the process of bringing more alternative sustainable energy sources on-line. In other words it indicates the inability of the oil sector to be involved in lowering emissions which is because they are unable to stop producing oil, at least until their operations and the burning of fossil fuels are 100% neutral in terms of their impacts on climate change (GlobalWarming, 2009a).
European Commission in January was criticised for the increased global warming that has touched off a chain of regional conflicts over dwindling resources including worsening poverty, famine, mass migrations and the proliferation of infectious diseases such as malaria, cholera and dengue fever (Blanche, Feb 2008).
The best what science suggests oil and gas refineries is to maintain a stabilising atmospheric concentrations at safe levels that will require a 60 to 80 percent cut in carbon emissions from current levels over the next century. Since, everyone is aware that our global energy system has been “decarbonising” over the last 200 years, moving to less carbon-intensive fuels and improving energy efficiency, therefore such a maintained rate of change will need to accelerate significantly to meet this objective (Flavin & Dunn, 1999).
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Putting an end to oil spilling and toxic wastes
Dumping oil spilling and toxic wastes inappropriately and oil-related accidents cannot be ignored anymore, since this cumulative problem must be put to an end. We are well aware of the fact that world’s demand for this non-renewable resource is increasing with the passage of time and would increase more rapidly than what it is today because of the demand of petroleum products. Recent studies confirm that exposure to airborne particles from combustion of residual oil alters the functioning of fossil fuels burning (Cormier et al, 2006).
In limited circumstances, oil industry often witnesses situations which invite even conventional fossil fuels to enter the category of ‘waste material’, which allows certification as a small power project. Such wastes include natural gas, which is often flared to be utilised as refuse lignite, this when combines with low or medium quality natural gas gives no commercial value therefore it enters as a ‘waste material’ resource (Ferrey, 2003).
Alternative Energy Programs
Alternative energy development programs are already helping oil companies to increase energy availability and efficiency, since energy sources into fossil fuels and nuclear power, as the conventional sources, and renewable and geothermal energy, as the alternatives. There is a need to use conventional and geothermal sources as energy capital, to reduce the future threats so as the renewable energy sources employ energy income (i.e., the stock remains constant).
The contemporary problem in utilising capital appears to be most efficient; however, the true cost of fossil fuel use is misrepresented by market prices. For example, fossil fuel combustion produces emissions that play an active role in global warming and impose costs on society for example, through poorer health. Thus, excessive energy usage results in global warming effect; therefore there is a need to investigate the hidden factors behind environmental crises that renewable energy sources are falsely seen as too expensive because their external benefits to society, such as energy capital maintenance and lower pollution (Shojai, 1995, p. 159).
Private participation in such energy programs has shifted attention of oil refineries from instrumental criteria of performance to efficiency and profitability considerations. Many rural areas have face prolong delays in securing prized energy connections, and meanwhile aggravate biomass depletion and coal based pollution, were it not for important technological developments. Contemporary oil planners have considered decentralised energy production and explored rather than assumed the nature of emerging demand (Chasek, 2000, p. 37).
With the help of technological innovation, refineries can transform themselves from traditional renewable energy to fast growing energy sources. Windmills can be used for such purpose to generate electricity, other renewable sources include geothermal energy which serves to increase slowly but steadily with less even distribution, it can contribute towards power generation (Flavin & Dunn, 1999).
Oil and gas refineries should seek renewable energy resources to get the maximum hold on retaining energy and development standards of countries throughout the world. Refineries along with the help of Government can rely on biomass as an attractive energy resource since it uses local feed stocks and labour with contribution from crop wastes, cellulosic biomass, and crops.
Energy crops have been consumed by many countries like Brazil to utilise the energy crops of sugar to produce ethanol for use in vehicles, as an alternate of oil imports. Besides other alternates, Hydrogen serves to be the most less polluting processed hydrant which promises an effective alternative fuel for the future, and is currently produced from natural gas in a less pollutant process with more improved and more economic technology, hydrogen also can be produced from photovoltaic or wind-powered electrolysis, separating hydrogen from water, and from some seawater algae (Ottinger & Williams, 2002).
There is a scope for refineries to utilise in the near-term, hydrogen as a most likely solution to be used in fuel cells that can power vehicles or stationary electric generators. Oil sector should utilise hydrogen combustion for it is virtually pollution free when recombines with hydrogen and oxygen to release water, and the gas is economically transportable in pipelines, minimising the threat of oil spillage. Other benefits include its cost effectiveness in context with reducing the cost of both hydrogen production and fuel cells.
There is a need to build an infrastructure so as to transport the hydrogen along with treating the natural gas pipelines through a distribution network established for vehicle use. However, in order to develop this infrastructure huge initial capital expenses would occur because hydrogen is developed today to the extent to be used as an electric power source.
Political Solution to Political Problem
Fossil fuel energy production in addressing global warming is a logic which has informed the climate strategies of most industrial states and environmental groups. The key reason for why global warming becomes politically so problematic refers to the industrialised nations where CO2 emissions are in need to be reduced immediately by over 60 per cent if concentrations are to be stabilised at existing levels. In most industrialised countries, oil and gas companies have energy lobbies that are politically very powerful, and in most countries a culture exists whereby the assumption is that energy use must grow in order to sustain economic growth.
The continuing political wrangling over the Kyoto Protocol illustrates why the oil refineries are responding so slowly to the impending crisis of global warming. Climate diplomacy remains an arena dominated by competition of special interests in which a few European countries, are taking steps to mitigate greenhouse forcing on their own. While British emissions of greenhouse gases by the year 2000 had fallen between five and six percent compared to the Kyoto Protocol 1990 targets, emissions in the United States rose 11 percent between 1990 and 1998, while several European countries (including Britain) made substantial progress toward meeting the goals of the Kyoto Protocol by reducing their greenhouse-gas emissions as much as 10 percent compared to 1990 levels (Johansen, 2002, p. 254).
Woloski (2006) points out that the main problem is that sky touching global prices of oil which have been driven by various factors including unease in global markets, but this would not be a long-term concern, since the continued fossil fuel use is the expectation that oil reserves will be exhausted by 2045 (Woloski, 2006) and the rocketing prices of gasoline would ultimately escort the global market to search for alternative energy sources.
In one aspect, we can see that the way sustainable development have raised the issue of climate change, is more greater in magnitude and potentially more threatening to oil companies than anything that had gone before. IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) points out that the link between global warming and greenhouse gas emissions in context with the oil sector production by the burning of fossil fuels has been one of the reasons of satisfaction of many scientists and government policy makers (Livesey, 2002).
Ever since 1996, British Petroleum (BP) has abandoned the industry coalition while understanding the political advocacy towards fossil fuels and has modified its position on Kyoto. BP this way has cope up in reducing the environmental threats by supporting the principle advocated by IPCC climate scientists that ‘precautionary measures are necessary, BP even has not lagged behind in reducing its own emissions voluntarily. BP along with the Shell Group promises to meet political steps towards reducing global warming and has exceeded even Kyoto guidelines by instituting new businesses in renewable energy and mounted public relations campaigns to announce strategies based on responsible corporate citizenship.
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Publishing texts on global warming threats has never been considered enough, since to policy makers, the ads address the complex issue in a conversational style, which presents a view to offsetting, in terms familiar in public discourse, the increasingly dire warnings of climate scientists urged at international climate negotiations and appearing in the popular press. Corporate actors in the political arena have accuses the oil companies of distorting and misrepresenting the ‘science’ of global warming, which to environmentalists have only problematised the issue (Leggett, 2001, p. 16).
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