Environmentalism’s Unlikely New Hero is… Oil?

It’s April 2010, a recently installed concrete core, meant to seal the Deepwater Horizon oil rig for later use, exploded.

The blast killed 11 people, and the resulting oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico made global headlines. By the end of the next several months of containment attempts, it’s estimated that: 

  • 1,100 miles of shoreline were polluted
  • $40 billion had been spent in clean-up
  • And more than 200 million gallons of oil spilled.

The company responsible for this disaster was BP, a titan of the oil industry. Another “too big to fail” institution; not such a farfetched title, since they financially recovered from the biggest oil spill in U.S. history.

Over the next ten years, oil continued to spill in catastrophic bursts, global temperatures steadily rose, and a pandemic threatened to shutter the oil industry entirely, sending oil prices below zero for the first time ever only a decade after the oil spill that shook the nation.

Since then, oil’s biggest players have been scrambling to design a business model for the new normal – either doubling down on their existing strengths or pivoting into new arenas.

And leading the charge right now?

None other than BP.

During a presentation on September 15th, the London-based company unveiled their five, 10, and 30 year plans to convert their business model from oil-based energy to renewable energy, while remaining a strong investment choice for their shareholders.

But how will they do it?

The Nitty Gritty Details of the Clean Plan

BP knows it can’t continue to pollute the Earth and make breakneck profits unregulated. The global mood is shifting, and the company must shift along with it.

The crux of the plan relies on investing heavily in solar energy.

Since solar energy is the cheapest and fastest route to clean energy, taking about 18 months from design to completion, that’s where BP will throw most of their weight.

In five years, the company says that the daily production of bio-energy will double its 2019 rate to reach 50,000 barrels per day. This is good news for areas of travel that need more power than standard renewable energy options can provide – like air, sea, and heavy goods transport. In the fight to switch to renewable energy, these sectors are often used as examples against halting fracking entirely. 

Bio-energy: BP partnered with Brazilian company Bunge in 2019 to produce sugarcane ethanol, which is one of the most carbon-efficient biofuels yet discovered. Its greenhouse gas emissions are about 70% lower than most hydrocarbon transport fuels.

Also by 2025, BP says it’ll have approved 20 gigawatts of renewable energy projects. Although the focus will be solar, it’ll be expanding its investments into wind energy as well, with an eye towards its 10 and 30 year plans.

In all, 83% of those new projects will be solar energy, 15% will be wind, and 2% will be biofuels.

By 2030, BP says 50 gigawatts of low-carbon energy projects will be underway and profitable. 

And by 2050? The CEO, Bernard Looney, pledges to make BP’s greenhouse gas emissions reach net zero for the company and its customers.

What Does that Mean for You?

The implications for the average energy user will be gradual.

Savvy Americans have long been aware that our government is less a democracy and more a corporatocracy. Our government’s funds are so heavily invested in businesses that it’s hard to make a move in the “right” direction without the approval of those businesses.

An enormous player in the oil industry like BP influences many others. 

With this move, we can expect to see other oil companies fighting not to lose their competitive edges. They’ll likely be investing heavily in renewable energy projects, pivoting their own business models, and driving down the cost of alternative energy sources for the average citizen. 

Even the government may begin taking strong measures against climate change as those who stand to lose the most join the fight to save our planet.

On the ground floor, the best we can do is continue to lobby our representatives to vote for clean energy initiatives, remove our own money from funds and indexes invested in fracking technology and oil extraction, and stay informed about upcoming changes in the world of energy.

For now, let’s watch BP very closely to see what initiatives it’ll unveil in the next year or so. 

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