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February 9, 2022, Event Recap: Investment vs Divestment: The Role of the Oil & Gas Industry in a Net-Zero Future

The pace and scale of the energy transition will need to increase significantly to meet net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Fossil fuels currently drive more than 80% of global primary energy despite rapid growth in low-carbon technologies such as wind and solar in recent decades.

It is clear today that the energy system is facing an enormous transformation as climate policy forces gain momentum here in the US and globally. Renewable energy is mainstream, advanced technologies are emerging from the labs and entering the marketplace, energy customers want cleaner options, and governments including ours are starting to get real with a policy agenda. At the center of it all is the oil and gas industry, the workhorse of our current energy economy.

The “divestment vs investment” discussion is becoming increasingly relevant as we grapple with energy supply issues in real time. Is divestment from oil and gas the fastest route toward success or is the most sensible path an accelerated program of public and private investment in advanced technology development with the oil and gas industry?

In the public imagination, the answer to this question falls into two broad categories: (1) these industries will need to phase out, or (2) today’s energy industry must be an active player in delivering clean energy at scale.

On February 9, BPC’s Executive Director of the Energy Program, Sasha Mackler, talked with a diverse group of energy policy experts on this topic:

  • Kevin Book, Managing Director of ClearView Energy Partners LLC,
  • Bruce Niemeyer, Vice President of Strategy and Sustainability at Chevron,
  • Sarah Ladislaw, Managing Director of the US Program at RMI,
  • and John Larsen, Partner at the Rhodium Group.

Kevin Book started the event off with a challenge:

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Sarah Ladislaw shared her concern for the divestment vs investment tension in the policy world now by wishing for a DeLorean flux capacitor to whisk her and anyone looking for a stable transition back in time.

The panelists summed up our conversation by all agreeing, with many a cautionary note, that oil and gas sector expertise can play a strong role in the energy transition with BPC’s Executive Director of the Energy Program, Sasha Mackler, offering his perspective: “…We see the worlds largest logistics companies and well-capitalized energy companies needing to be at the table and really driving us [to net zero by 2050] in an accelerated way.”

Kevin Book reminded the audience that the energy transition is likely going to cost more than the government is willing to spend.

Sarah Ladislaw noted that the players today may be very different tomorrow.

Bruce Niemeyer reminded the audience that the oil/gas sector has the skills and business imperative to continue to decarbonize. Chevron supports the goals of the Paris Accords.

John Larsen capped off our conversation with a cautionary note.

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