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Clean Energy Future Needs Financing says Shell CEO

When electric vehicles were still regarded as a research and development effort a few years ago, fossil fuel interests had little to say about them. However, the petroleum industry has started a full-court press in the media now that Tesla has grown to become a trillion-dollar company. Every day, my LinkedIn feed is packed with messages from oil companies touting how much they’re doing to improve their environmental practices and save the earth for our descendants.

I’ve seen some pretty ridiculous things in my time, and I’m sure you have as well, but this one tops the cake. In a recent interview with the BBC, Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden stated that his goal is to be net-zero by 2050. Over the next decade, Shell wants to transition from generating filthy gasoline and diesel to creating marginally cleaner biofuels and hydrogen. If we have to make a hydrogen plant from a billion-dollar wind farm in the North Sea, it will not be paid by the hydrogen industry—the oil and gas industry will fund it.

Even if we ignore whether hydrogen represents anything more than a new market for oil and gas, this is the kind of argument that a philosophy textbook might employ to demonstrate sophistry, circular reasoning, or any other logical fallacies. But, unfortunately, it’s also the kind of justification that alcoholics and drug addicts use to justify one last drink or pill.

Climate scientists concur that if humanity is to avert catastrophic environmental damage, fossil fuel consumption must be phased out as soon as possible. However, the fact that Shell and other oil companies have shown no intention of winding down, or even freezing, what Mr. van Beurden refers to as their “legacy business”—on the contrary, they wish to increase it, underlines the ridiculousness of the “we’ll retire tomorrow” argument.

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