As the need for an energy transition becomes increasingly apparent, a paradoxical trend has emerged. Several developed countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, and Norway, are expanding their petroleum exploration and production activities, raising concerns about hypocrisy, as these nations have made commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The United States, under President Joe Biden, has witnessed a notable upward trend in oil production. According to Wood Mackenzie, crude oil production in the United States is projected to reach a record high of 13.3 million barrels per day (b/d) by the first quarter of 2024. This follows an increase from 10.8 million b/d during the first quarter of Biden’s presidency in 2021 to 12.4 million b/d in the first quarter of 2023. Despite President Biden’s commitment to shifting away from fossil fuels, these numbers indicate a different trajectory.
Former President and now Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump had just three words when asked recently by a voter, if reelected President, what he would do first to counter high food and gasoline prices – “Drill, baby, drill!” Trump was speaking at the time at a townhall hosted by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins.
In Norway, recent announcements regarding the expansion of petroleum exploration activities have raised eyebrows. The Norwegian government has expanded the annual allocation of exploration acreage through the Awards in Predefined Areas (APA) scheme. This scheme provides oil companies access to attractive exploration areas in mature regions of the Norwegian shelf. In 2023, Norway added 92 additional blocks to the APA area, located in the northwest Norwegian Sea and the western Barents Sea. The APA scheme has played a significant role in sustaining Norway’s productive oil and gas industry for over half a century.
In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently stated that the country should continue to rely on fossil fuels for the “next few decades.”
“It makes absolutely no sense to not invest in the resources we have here at home, to import foreign fossil fuels, not create jobs here and import them at twice the carbon emissions as our local resources,” Sunak is quoted as saying, by Bloomberg.
Sunak’s remarks came in response to calls for the UK to oppose Equinor ASA’s Rosebank oil field project in the North Sea. They highlight a challenge of balancing climate targets with the need for domestic energy sources.
For developing nations, the path to decarbonisation is even more complex. Many of these countries, including small island developing states in the Caribbean and Pacific regions, as well as low-lying coastal states like Guyana, have historically contributed minimally to the climate crisis. However, they are already bearing the brunt of its adverse effects, such as increased flooding, which disproportionately affects their vulnerable populations. Despite pledges of financial support from the developed world to assist developing countries in adapting to and mitigating climate change impacts, the actual assistance provided has fallen short. In the absence of viable alternatives, many developing nations argue that they must utilise their oil and gas resources to build resilience and meet their energy needs.