Wednesday, October 4, 2023

French Total quits powerful US oil lobby for climate policy

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French energy company Total became the first major oil company to end its membership in the American Petroleum Institute, Big Oil’s powerful pressure group in Washington, citing its position on climate change and its support for politicians opposed to it. the Paris agreement.

The move reveals a growing rift between US and European oil supermajors on climate policy, and comes just days before Joe Biden enters the White House with a pledge to join the Paris Climate Pact, to fight against pollution from the oil industry and launch clean energy. supply revolution.

Total also spoke of API’s opposition to subsidies for electric vehicles and its support last year for the Trump administration’s rollback of regulation to limit emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

Total is “committed to ensuring, in a transparent manner, that the professional associations of which we are members adopt positions and messages in line with those of the group in the fight against climate change”, declared CEO Patrick Pouyanné.

The position follows an API conference this week in which the lobby group outlined areas of disagreement with the incoming Biden administration. This includes the president-elect’s proposals to limit new drilling on federally owned land in the United States.

In addition to its controversial support for federal cancellations of the Obama-era methane regulations, the API has supported the Trump administration’s efforts to open protected alaskan desert to drillers.

Major shareholders and environmental activists, especially in Europe, have criticized oil majors such as BP and Royal Dutch Shell for belonging to organizations whose lobbying positions run counter to these companies’ promises to reduce their emissions. .

The main Norwegian pension fund KLP, which manages $ 80 billion, said Total’s move would pressure Equinor, Shell and BP to follow suit.

“There is simply no justification for associating with pressure groups that roll back emissions regulations and undermine urgent climate action,” said Jeanett Bergan, responsible investment manager at KLP.

Bernard Looney, CEO of BP, defended his company’s membership in API in a interview with the Financial Times last year, claiming that the British oil group had helped change the lobbying body’s stance on certain policies.

“While you might think they don’t have the most progressive climate policy, it is way more progressive than it used to be,” Mr. Looney said. “And that’s part of the fact that we’re here to help and push.”

But Total’s move will give momentum to activists’ calls for other European oil companies to pull out of API. Alongside BP and Royal Dutch Shell, Total had already abandoned its membership in the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, a pressure group for refiners.

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Total’s business in the United States includes refining in Texas and upstream operations in the Gulf of Mexico and certain shale fields. It announced a joint venture this week with 174 Power Global, a unit of South Korea’s Hanwha group, to install new solar and battery storage capacity in the United States, as part of its attempt to grow a business. world of renewable energy.

The API has long represented Big Oil interests in Washington, including last year when US President Donald Trump sought to protect domestic oil producers from collapsing crude prices.

It claims a membership of over 600 operators, from ExxonMobil and Chevron down, and also sets safety standards for the industry.

API said Total’s pullout reflected the “diversity” of views in the industry, but did not support what it called “subsidizing energy”. In a slightly softened post to the incoming Biden administration, he also said this week that he was “open to the possibility” of further regulation and working with the new EPA administrator and the next president. “on how we can do it. The right way”.

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