Oil industry sees Paris climate deal as chance to innovate

Fri Feb 26, 2016 12:57pm EST
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By Ernest Scheyder

HOUSTON (Reuters) - If a crisis is a terrible thing to waste, the oil industry sees the Paris climate accord not as a death knell, but an opportunity to innovate and even grow.

The move is a shrewd one for an industry that has been on the defensive for years on climate issues, constantly fending off attacks that its products have contributed to an unhealthy rise in global temperatures.

While the landmark emissions-reduction agreement among 195 countries late last year was seen as a defeat for fossil fuel producers, executives and oil ministers sounded a clarion call this week at their first major meeting since the Paris talks for more research into how carbon capture technology can be cheapened and perfected.

The hope is that this and other technologies could sharply cut oil and natural gas emissions, protect the industry from the ramifications of climate change legislation and ensure developing economies still have access to inexpensive energy.

"If you could eliminate all of the carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion, then you could use those fuels as long as you want," Robert Armstrong, director of the MIT Energy Initiative, said in an interview on the sidelines of IHS CERAWeek, the world's largest gathering of oil executives.

He added that other sources of energy, including renewable technologies, should be part of the oil industry’s research focus, to transition away from fossil fuels in the coming decades.

"It's just a matter of making those technologies competitive in the market."

That could help the oil industry avoid the worst-case scenario for a post-Paris world: governments forcing oil and gas production to cease in certain areas.   Continued...

A woman walks past a map showing the elevation of the sea in the last 22 years during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 11, 2015.  REUTERS/Stephane Mahe