One Week in Houston, Many Messages to the World
Set against the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has destabilized energy markets and sent prices soaring, CERAWeek was like an inkblot test for climate observers. The annual energy conference is considered to be the biggest annual gathering of CEOs and Ministers from global energy and utilities, as well as automotive, manufacturing, policy, and financial communities. CERAWeek always previews global trends and has been described as "the Davos of energy" by the Financial Times and the "industry's Super Bowl," by Politico.
For those who believe that the energy industry is changing and committed to going green, there was plenty for them to hang their cowboy hats on at CERAWeek. For skeptics, the frequent appeals by industry leaders to produce more fossil fuel energy during the Ukraine crisis may have confirmed all suspicions.
Bloomberg: Occidental CEO Says Oil Could Hit $150 a Barrel, March 8, 2022.
KHOU 11: CERAWeek Day 3: Call for more production and clean energy, March 9, 2022.
Why This Matters
The world desperately needs the energy industry to adopt low carbon solutions, and the International Energy Agency has made clear that to keep hope alive of just 1.5 degrees of global warming, new fossil fuel development must end by the next decade. But despite growth in renewables and clean energy, fossil fuels remain dominant.
Green Shoots of Hope?
This year, industry players from the energy industry emphasized their commitment to new technologies in a low carbon future. Exxon CEO Darren Woods touted the company's emphasis on carbon capture, hydrogen, and biofuels as a step in keeping with his company's tradition and "leveraging the skills that we've developed over the years."
European energy leaders leaned greener. Patrick Pouyanné cited TotalEnergies' moves into renewable power, electricity services, batteries, and EV charging, along with other European majors like BP and Shell. "The transition is a matter of two types of new products: new molecules, on which obviously an oil-and-gas company, some DNA, it's biofuels, biogas, hydrogen, and the strategic move we have decided that we will become an electricity and renewable producer and supplier," he said.
Balancing Now and Tomorrow
US Policymakers emphasized the balance between immediate actions to help consumers and Europe withstand Putin’s destabilizing invasion and the steps necessary for decarbonization. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry said that despite higher energy costs for a time, the Ukraine crisis was a "defining moment" and repeated his bigger arguments about the long term. He said it is not enough for companies to have a "net-zero" goal for 2050, when action is needed this decade. Kerry advocated rapid adoption of sustainable biomass energy and solar and wind as components of a strategy for Europe to offset the gap caused by cutting the line to Russian gas.
Reuters: CERAWeek - Conflict could slow clean energy shift, March 7, 2022.