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  • Rushmi Rosairo

Triple Bottom Tuesday>>> Safe Oil Exports while Working Towards Clean Energy

Picture Credit: Fredrick Filix

Climate change adds salt to the wounds of many of the world’s biggest challenges. As environmental problems go, few are as severe and complex as climate change. This issue is affecting the human population in particular, more harshly than some may expect, as coal, oil and gas increases human vulnerability, killing 4.2 million people a year globally, according to the World Health Organisation, and so the fight against climate change and fossil fuel continues on multiple fronts.

The most rational and effective tool is carbon taxing, as it is a core policy for reducing and eventually eliminating the use of fossil fuels. Currently, there are 27 countries with regards to carbon tax implemented, with Finland being the world’s first country to implement a carbon tax back in 1990.

Picture Credit: Marcin Jozwiak

As it is, there are 64 carbon pricing initiatives currently in force across the globe on various regional, national and subnational levels, with three more which are scheduled for implementation , according to the world bank. Together, these initiatives have been estimated to cover 21.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2021. The European Union and China are two of the most noticeable among the 27 countries with carbon tax. China recently launched its national emissions trading scheme, making it the world’s largest carbon market, and is likely to push for more market-based mechanisms to lower carbon emissions and to help reach its zero emissions target by 2030. Meanwhile the EU Emissions Trading System of the European Union is one of the best examples of a cap-and-trade system. On the other hand, as dampening as it is, one of the most significant absences from the list, is the US, especially considering the fact that the US is one of the world’s largest carbon emitters. However, President Joe Biden has made a significant push for his clean energy agenda since stepping into office-he pledged to cut down US emissions by 50% by 2030, and reach zero emissions by 2050, and signed an executive order to make 50% of all cars electric by 2030. Throughout the world, politicians and activists pursue various actions intended to shift the energy mix, away from fossil fuels onto more environmentally friendly options. When moving into 2022, oil and gas companies are hoping to reinvent themselves by committing to climate change, according to surveys.

Despite the growing attention on clean energy, the oil and gas industry has rebounded strongly throughout 2021, with oil prices reaching their highest since 2015. Fossil fuels account for approximately 80% of global consumption and approximately 75% greenhouse gas emissions. This shows that regardless of the ardent wishes for the contrary, fossil fuels will be important to the future of energy usage for decades to come. Acknowledging this reality is not hypocritical as long as steps still continue to be taken in order to minimise the impact fossil fuels have on the environment.

There are certain points when contemplating how to minimise the impact on the environment, with the most significant being the transportation method. When transporting oil and natural gas on land, pipelines are the most efficient and environmentally safe option. When comparing the transportation methods on land, shipping by train/truck is over 4.5 times more likely to experience an occurrence. Less than 70% of pipe occurrences result in minor spills of 1m3 or less.

Picture Credit: Ian Simmonds

When shipping oil across the ocean, it is wise to use the largest most efficient ships possible. This helps keep the emissions per barrel transported lower than if it were done by smaller ships. these days, the best option for this are the Very Large Crude Carriers, which carry up to 80 million gallons of crude oil at a time. Considering the sheer size of these ships, it is impossible for them to dock at ports, which means they require terminals, to send a pipeline extending a few miles from shore, into deep waters for them to receive oil. A lot of environmentalists oppose the construction of these terminals, as it is their belief that these terminals will result in a spike of oil and gas production, which will in turn worsen the climate change situation. However, this is not the case, seeing as growing economies will not risk stunting their growth even if their energy demands cannot be satisfied. This means that even if the construction of terminals does not occur, the demand for oil and gas will remain the same. So It is best to reduce the energy intensity and minimise the environmental impact by using terminals and the Very Large Crude Carriers which is the safest way to transport, than to risk occurrences when using smaller ships.

In conclusion, as we look to the future, hoping to accomplish the goal of using clean energy and zero emissions , we mustn’t forget to be aware of the present. Countries across the globe are working towards these goals, but we must make sure that our current and immediate future does not contradict those goals.

February 8th 2022 | 6:15 PM

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