From daily The Guardian in Britain:
BP dropped green energy projects worth billions to focus on fossil fuels
Oil firm invested billions of pounds in clean and low-carbon energy in the 80s and 90s but later abandoned meaningful efforts to move away from fossil fuels and locked away the research
Thursday 16 April 2015 06.00 BST
BP pumped billions of pounds into low-carbon technology and green energy over a number of decades but gradually retired the programme to focus almost exclusively on its fossil fuel business, the Guardian has established.
At one stage the company, whose annual general meeting is in London on Thursday, was spending in-house around $450m (£300m) a year on research alone – the equivalent of $830m today.
The energy efficiency programme employed 4,400 research scientists and R&D support staff at bases in Sunbury, Berkshire, and Cleveland, Ohio, among other locations, while $8bn was directly invested over five years in zero- or low-carbon energy.
But almost all of the technology was sold off and much of the research locked away in a private corporate archive.
Facing shareholders at its AGM, company executives will insist they are playing a responsible role in a world facing dangerous climate change, not least by supporting arguments for a global carbon price.
But the company, which once promised to go “beyond petroleum” will come under fire both inside the meeting and outside from some shareholders and campaigners who argue BP is playing fast and loose with the environment by not making meaningful moves away from fossil fuels.
In 2015, BP will spend $20bn on projects worldwide but only a fraction will go into activities other than fossil fuel extraction.
An investigation by the Guardian has established that the British oil company is doing far less now on developing low-carbon technologies than it was in the 1980s and early 1990s. Back then it was engaged in a massive internal research and development (R&D) programme into energy efficiency and alternative energy.
Even before the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had put climate change on the international political map with a landmark speech in 1988,
Even though Thatcher’s husband Denis was a director of Burmah Oil, later a part of BP … How ironic that present fans of the late Baroness Thatcher, like the Rupert Murdoch empire, are often climate denialists (sometimes paid by BP).
the company was doing ground-breaking work into photovoltaic solar panels, wave power and domestic energy efficiency as part of a wider drive to understand how greenhouse gas emissions could be curbed.
Two houses on the site at Sunbury were used in experiments. One was retrofitted with special insulation, ground source heat pumps and other systems which have now become mainstream.
“All the reports that we produced were filed away and contain a huge mass of information. We had been researching alternative energies for years going back to the early 1980s,” said one senior scientist involved in the BP programme who did not want to be named.
A major cost-cutting drive in 1993 forced the end of R&D as a standalone department. It was reduced in scale, merged with the engineering department and told to concentrate on oil and chemical research.
Much of the renewable energy research is now kept in a formal BP archive based at the Modern Records Centre, a part of the main library at Warwick University, which describes itself as “a history of the modern world”.
The oil company employs its own librarians at the site who insist that only pre-1976 material on issues such as solar power are available to journalists and the public.
A spokesman for BP insisted that the company was now spending $660m on research, half of that in-house at locations such as Sunbury and he denied that any energy efficiency drive was being wound down. 20% of R&D is still said to be going towards “a low-carbon transition” .
But he accepted that the company had retreated from renewable energy which had once had its own separate headquarters and chief executive, saying it was up to others to do that work.
Greenpeace said it was time that BP handed over all the research it had gained from its decades of work. “By keeping this wealth of research under lock and key BP is putting narrow corporate interests before humanity’s hopes to tackle one of its greatest challenges, said a spokesman.
“BP could score a PR victory by releasing this information, in the same way that Tesla released some of their energy patents to boost innovation in the sector. Not pursuing its clean energy project might have been a missed opportunity for BP, but the rest of us can’t afford to make the same mistake.”
As recently as 2003 the then-chief executive John Browne appeared to see a bright future for a low-carbon energy group, bringing in Ogilvy & Mather to launch a $200m rebranding campaign.
BP introduced its new slogan “Beyond Petroleum” and changed its 70-year-old, shield-style logo to a more upbeat and eco-friendly green and yellow sunburst.
This 2010 video is called Greenpeace launch logo competition to rebrand BP. Greenpeace climbers rebrand BP with a ‘British polluters’ flag.
Six years earlier Browne had differentiated himself from his rivals by leaving the main industry body campaigning against carbon controls, the Global Climate Coalition, instead talking openly of the threat caused by global warming.
By 2007 Browne had left the company to his successor Tony Hayward who closed down BP Solar in 2011, on the grounds that it did not make money.
“The continuing global economic challenges have significantly impacted the solar industry, making it difficult to sustain long-term returns for the company, despite our best efforts,” BP said in an internal letter to staff at the time.
Two years earlier, in 2009, Hayward had scrapped BP Alternative Energy as a stand-alone business, slashed its budget and said goodbye to its boss Vivienne Cox.
In 2013, under an even newer chief executive, Bob Dudley, all the wind farms which at one stage were located in nine different American states and produced 2,600 megawatts were put up for sale. BP failed to find a buyer and continues to hang on to them. The company also retains a Brazilian biofuels business but has halted all work on carbon capture and storage.
BP continues to invest in carbon-heavy tar sands operations as well as its traditional oil and gas fields and yet it accepts that some reserves will have to remain in the ground to beat global warming. …
A major group of shareholders have called on the company to address climate change more robustly through a resolution to be heard at the AGM.
BP management says it supports the resolution but ultimately believes that politicians must take primary responsibility for tackling global warming and hastening in a low-carbon future. ..,
Suzanne Dhaliwal from the UK Tar Sands Network said support for the AGM resolution looked hollow when the company was still engaged in carbon-heavy extraction activities. “It looks like a stalling mechanism to get large shareholders on board but from a grass roots level commitments to tackling climate change and continuing with tar sands are incompatible.”
McKibben says: “BP’s ‘beyond petroleum’ shtick was one of the great PR moves of all time, but it never amounted to anything – nor will the pious purring noises they’re making now,” he argues.
“If they want to lead they’ll pledge to stop looking for new hydrocarbons. I’m guessing they won’t, and that we will need to fight them every step of the way.”