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June 13, 2006

Monbiot on the Oil Companies

Decent polemic from Georges today. Usual Monbiot environmentalism etc but it does at least make internal sense. However:

The denial and aggression which characterised Shell's approach at the time of the Brent Spar campaign

Worth remembering that Shell were actually correct about the Brent Spar, don’t you think? That it was Greenpeace who were wrong?

June 13, 2006 in Peak Oil | Permalink

Comments

Moonbat:

For a company that claims to have moved "beyond petroleum", BP has managed to spill an awful lot of it on to the tundra in Alaska. Last week, after the news was leaked to journalists, it admitted to investors that it is facing criminal charges for allowing 270,000 gallons of crude oil to seep across one of the world's most sensitive habitats.

Given that he thinks petroleum and crude oil to be the same thing, I think we can safely say that Monbiot is commenting on a subject of which he knows little.

Posted by: Tim Newman | Jun 13, 2006 10:56:02 AM

Could you explain to us how the distinction affects his paragraph?

Tim adds: I would argue that arrogance should referto people arguing the wrong thing....as Greenpeace did. Standing up in hte name of truth is the opposite: which is what Shell did.

Posted by: Matthew | Jun 13, 2006 12:57:16 PM

Greenpeace were wrong, says you; would "Greenpeace were lying" be nearer the mark?

Posted by: dearieme | Jun 13, 2006 3:24:00 PM

But what Moonbat does know is that Greenpeace won that fight.

The lesson to be learned is that mere facts don't matter, hysterical assertion trumps a denial by people who know what they are talking about. Or at the very least matches it & leads most people to say there must be something to it so we should at least compromise by introducing some restrictions.

Posted by: Neil Craig | Jun 13, 2006 6:49:46 PM

In what sense do you, dearieme, and Neil assert that Shell were 'right'?

Their environmental impact assessment was a laughable failure to address the unknowns (at the time, there were a lot of unknowns about the environment they proposed to drop the Spar in, let alone the impacts).

Greenpeace lied - that's beyond question - but Shell (and even more so the UK government) were extremely economical with the truth.

More importantly, the results of the debacle have been almost entirely positive: corporate arrogance reduced; proper, whole-life assesssments of the impacts and costs of projects. Acceptance within the oil industry of the impact of their public image, and genuine attempts to improve that image by improving the reality.

It's a pity the government hasn't learned a similar lesson.

Posted by: Agassiz | Jun 13, 2006 7:48:28 PM

Tim - I meant Tim Newman's distinction between "Crude oil" and "petroleum".

Tim adds: Aye, that slighty puzzled me. Tim N? Can we have an explanation please?

Posted by: Matthew | Jun 13, 2006 8:01:02 PM

Petroleum is a refined product of crude oil?

RM

Posted by: The Remittance Man | Jun 13, 2006 9:18:41 PM

Sorry should have added. Crude gets pumped out of the ground and is sent via pipeline to Valdez. This is then shipped in tankers to refineries nearer to the consumers.

The reason this is done is because shipping refined products is more dangerous and costly because the are more volatile.

It's picky, but does highlight the fact that Georges has done min research into what he is spouting off about.

RM

Posted by: The Remittance Man | Jun 13, 2006 9:22:41 PM

"Petroleum is a refined product of crude oil?"

Nope. *Petrol* (short for petroleum spirit) is a refined product. Petroleum is just another name for crude, so no problem with Monbiot's paragraph.

Posted by: Jon | Jun 13, 2006 11:04:10 PM

Its amazing that such ignorance can be posted by George Monbiot in a national paper.

Shell were wimps on Brent Spar - and their original plan shown to be reasonable in hind sight. Its Greenpeace whose reputation was very much damaged. ( At the time this had happened I had just returned to University having worked for Shell in the North Sea for 4 years - I guessed the Greenpeace mistake in their estimate immediately, if they were even vaguely competent they would have known they were wrong about their estimates of Oil left in the structure based on their method of sampling. )

On Nigeria - what he says is probably correct, but he omits description of the situation in Nigeria. Flaring takes place as gas is produced with oil in a ratio - if you produce oil you get gas. No flaring = no oil until a gas gathering network and use for the gas is in place. If you have no market for the gas you have to do something with it. Burning it is the best environmental option - venting is vastly worse for green house gas emissions.

Shell is a direct partner with the Nigerian State oil company and cannot do anything without their approval. They would have loved to have exported LNG with a gas gathering network years ago if politics had allowed (IMHO) - it didn't. Why don't leftie environmentalists ever blame the Nigerian state oil company ?

Its fashionable to bash the oil companies, but remember the likes of Shell and BP are far better guardians of the environment than most state oil companies IMHO. The State oil companies are vastly larger than Shell and BP. The best hope for the worlds environment is that Shell and BP's good practice will rub of on the State oil companies they work with.

If Mr Monbiot wants to eat his own dog food he can stop using the roads, plastics, drugs, clothes and electricity that the hydrocarbon industry provides him with.

Posted by: Man in a Shed | Jun 13, 2006 11:33:08 PM

Petroleum is just another name for crude, so no problem with Monbiot's paragraph.

I can assure you that petroleum is not just another name for crude. The word petroleum has no precise meaning, but it suggests it has been refined to at least some degree. I have spent 3 years tramping round wellheads and crude processing centres, and I've yet to hear anybody in the industry refer to crude as petroleum.

Posted by: Tim Newman | Jun 14, 2006 7:11:25 AM

Actually, looking in a dictionary at the definition of petroleum, it appears that the word is synonymous with crude oil. I stand corrected. But in the industry, the two mean very different things.

Posted by: Tim Newman | Jun 14, 2006 7:13:47 AM

Its fashionable to bash the oil companies, but remember the likes of Shell and BP are far better guardians of the environment than most state oil companies IMHO. The State oil companies are vastly larger than Shell and BP. The best hope for the worlds environment is that Shell and BP's good practice will rub of on the State oil companies they work with.

Absolutely.

Posted by: Tim Newman | Jun 14, 2006 7:15:50 AM

On Nigeria - what he says is probably correct, but he omits description of the situation in Nigeria. Flaring takes place as gas is produced with oil in a ratio - if you produce oil you get gas. No flaring = no oil until a gas gathering network and use for the gas is in place. If you have no market for the gas you have to do something with it. Burning it is the best environmental option - venting is vastly worse for green house gas emissions.

This too is very true. Hence it is somewhat ironic that he castigates Shell for their Sakhalin project, which is the world's largest integrated oil and gas project, which turns the associated gas from the extracted crude into LNG which is a much cleaner fuel. Surely this kind of thing is to be applauded, because the alternative is either to flare or reinject the associated gas.

Posted by: Tim Newman | Jun 14, 2006 7:27:42 AM

>"Surely this kind of thing is to be applauded, because the alternative is either to flare or reinject the associated gas"

Up to a point, Lord Copper.

That's an alternative. Another (for the Russian government, not for Shell) is not to develop the field(s) because the social and environmental impacts of extraction, processing, and use of the reserves are unacceptable. Obviously a matter of judgement.

Are we, as a species/society/economy, completely unable to take that decision (not to use a resource) - if so, why does short term, small-scale financial benefit outweigh long-term, regional and global costs? And can anything be done to guide the economic decision in a different direction?

Posted by: Agassiz | Jun 14, 2006 9:39:17 AM

The cost over runs on Sakhalin have been massive - much of the incurred to meet environmental objectives.

LNG is a good fuel as it displaces other fossil fuels which create electricity much less efficiently - hence saving CO2 emission's.

Agassiz last point is indeed on for society at large. But the argument must be properly formulated. Real costs of decisions must be explained to people. Remember money spent of saving cuddly animals cannot be spent on cancer drugs, care for the elderly or education. The right balance is a matter of debate - but let it be a fully costed debate. (And Remember we own the oil companies through our pensions and our governments take vast sums in taxes to pay for their pensions and salaries.)

Posted by: Man in a Shed | Jun 14, 2006 2:13:36 PM

Are we, as a species/society/economy, completely unable to take that decision (not to use a resource)..

I guess one could try to convince the Russians that the one glimmer of hope they have to escape another century of grinding poverty - their collosal hydrocarbon reserves - should stay in the ground for the greater good of society.

But I wouldn't want to be the one tasked with doing it.

Posted by: Tim Newman | Jun 14, 2006 2:36:28 PM

Absolutely solid points from Shed and Tim. Shell's development of Sakhalin 2 is a fine example of spending serious money to improve environmental performance. And a stark contrast to average standards in state-owned companies and some other private-sector firms.
I imagine the Russians would have to be paid not to extract those reserves. Not so far from actions we already take: paying farmers not to produce, for example. I can't think of a politically acceptable way of paying other nations not to use their primary resources, though. Nor of a workable, global, enforceable taxation regime for carbon production/use/emission. Some imaginative thinking from politicians is required.

So we're screwed imo.

Posted by: Agassiz | Jun 14, 2006 4:47:06 PM