BBC Exposé Fails (Episode III) – ?

From GraspUseful resource

By Richard W. Fulmer — September 21, 2022

“In its Ahab-like give attention to harpooning ExxonMobil, the BBC missed a chance to discover the big challenges concerned in changing fossil fuels. The prices of ignoring these challenges might be tragically placed on show this winter when Europeans face freezing temperatures with nothing however BBC-approved energy programs to maintain them heat.”

In Episodes 1 and 2 of its three-part documentary, Huge Oil vs The World, the BBC succeeded solely in demonstrating its personal bias. Repeatedly, viewers had been offered with just one facet of a many-sided situation. Episode 3 isn’t any exception. This episode’s fundamental narrative is that, for years, oil corporations have touted pure fuel as a clear different to coal, however poor execution has largely offset the advantages.

Per unit of power generated, pure fuel produces about half the carbon dioxide of coal. Nevertheless, methane – the principle element of pure fuel – is itself a greenhouse fuel. The truth is, methane can entice extra warmth (20 to 80 occasions extra, relying upon the chosen timescale) than carbon dioxide, though the harm that it does is restricted by its comparatively quick life within the ambiance (twelve years vs centuries).

Fuel leaks – from wells, pipelines, and refineries – are releasing massive quantities of methane around the globe. Worse is the declare by Dr. Dar-Lon Chang, an engineer who labored for ExxonMobil from 2003 – 2019, that “There wasn’t a lot urge for food for administration to measure methane leakage as a result of, in the event that they discovered there was an issue, they must do one thing about it.”

Within the face of business opposition, the Obama Administration tightened fuel leakage laws, however Trump reversed White Home coverage when he took workplace (testimony to the issues inherent in rule by govt order).

What the BBC Left Out

Methane Emission Sources. In accordance to the Worldwide Power Company (IEA), wetlands are the principle international supply of methane emissions. Agriculture is the most important supply of human emissions adopted intently by power manufacturing. Power emissions might be separated into (so as of descending volumes): pure fuel manufacturing, coal, oil, and biofuels. Waste emissions, together with these from landfills, rank fourth, although they surpass these emitted from any of the 4 separate power sources.

The Want for Pure Fuel. As a result of governments around the globe have mandated the usage of intermittent energy sources reminiscent of wind and photo voltaic, backup era that may come on-line rapidly is crucial for these occasions when the wind dies or a cloud blocks the solar. By far essentially the most used backups are fuel generators. They’re power environment friendly, cheap to construct, and have small footprints making them simple to web site. Because the IEA states:

Oil and pure fuel can be a part of the power system for many years to come back – even below bold efforts to cut back greenhouse fuel emissions consistent with the Paris Settlement.

Infrastructure. In accordance to the IEA:

In lots of instances, captured fuel might be simply dropped at market. Nevertheless, in different instances, notably the place fuel is co‑produced (or “related”) with oil, current pathways or companies could not exist to convey the fuel to productive use. In these instances, it could be essential to assemble new infrastructure to convey the fuel to a client, together with new compression tools, gathering pipelines and transmission pipelines, or liquefaction services. Methane abatement could falter with out insurance policies that require or incentivise productive use of pure fuel.

Blocking pipeline and LNG facility building ends in stranded fuel that’s both flared or, worse, merely launched.

Enhancements in U.S. Manufacturing Practices. In accordance to a 2019 peer-reviewed research printed in Geophysical Analysis Letters:

Prior to now decade, pure fuel manufacturing in the US has elevated by ~46%…. Primarily based on lengthy‐time period and effectively‐calibrated measurements, we discover that (i) there isn’t any massive improve of whole methane emissions in the US previously decade; (ii) there’s a modest improve in oil and fuel methane emissions, however this improve is way decrease than some earlier research counsel; and (iii) the belief of a time‐fixed relationship between methane and ethane emissions has resulted in main overestimation of an oil and fuel emissions pattern in some earlier research.

In different phrases, emissions per unit of fuel produced have fallen considerably. However ExxonMobil is by far the nation’s largest pure fuel producer, accounting for 50% extra manufacturing than its nearest competitor. So, how can Chang’s claims that the corporate ignores its fuel leaks be true if emission charges are dropping?

Regulation. In June 2021, Congress reinstated methane emissions laws, so no future President can eradicate them by fiat. As well as, each methane and CO2 emissions can now be detected from area. Satellites have recognized methane leaks from varied sources around the globe, together with farms, landfills, oil and fuel operations, and coal mines.

Whereas Congress can regulate the U.S. oil and fuel business, it can’t management emissions in nations reminiscent of Russia, Iran, China, and Turkmenistan. Banning pure fuel manufacturing within the U.S. would allow nations with poor environmental data to supply – and emit – extra. As I noticed in my overview of Episode 1, “emit extra elsewhere” shouldn’t be an efficient coverage.

Wind Turbine Whitewash

The BBC did a fair worse job in interviewing renewable power entrepreneur, Patrick Woodson. If its journalist requested Mr. Woodson any probing questions, they had been left on the slicing room flooring. Woodson was allowed to go away viewers with the impression that wind energy is a whole different to fossil fuels. Left unmentioned is that wind generators require backup as a result of they work solely when the wind blows.

Most typical energy turbines reminiscent of coal and nuclear vegetation can’t be fired up rapidly. All of them generate steam that’s used to drive generators. However bringing water to a boil takes time and, until such services are already up and working, they can’t be used as backup for intermittent energy turbines.

Whereas pure fuel generators are essentially the most used backups for wind and photo voltaic, there are different choices.  Diesel turbines will also be introduced on-line inside minutes. Nevertheless, they’ve a bigger footprint, generate extra air pollution and CO2, and are considerably much less environment friendly than are combined-cycle fuel generators.

Batteries can present instantaneous energy, however battery farms have a really massive footprint and, for now, can’t present large-scale backup for various hours.

Pumped water storage is one other different. During times of low demand, extra power generated by wind or photo voltaic is used to pump water up right into a reservoir. Throughout peak demand, the water is launched via hydroelectric generators. Alternatively, their footprint is sort of massive, and the variety of appropriate websites is restricted. Additionally, solely a few third of the power used to pump the water into the reservoir might be reclaimed.

One other scheme that has been proposed is to retailer energy by electrolyzing water to supply hydrogen after which utilizing the hydrogen to gas a turbine. Hydrogen burns very cleanly; its solely product of combustion is water. As with pumped water storage, although, solely a 3rd of the power used to separate the hydrogen might be recovered. As well as, the method consumes massive portions of water.

One of many extra stunning methods wherein to “backup” intermittent energy sources is to improve transmission grids. At present, for instance, West Texas produces a considerable amount of wind energy, however Texas’ ERCOT grid doesn’t have the capability to transmit all that energy to each nook of the state. So, if the wind dies in East Texas, sturdy winds in West Texas are of no use. Whereas beefing up the Texas grid would ease the issue, transmission strains are costly to construct and preserve. Proper-of-way have to be acquired earlier than they are often constructed, and environmental teams typically oppose their building.

That is solely a partial listing of attainable options. However the temporary dialogue of the professionals and cons of every illustrates economist Thomas Sowell’s oft-repeated remark that, “There are not any options, solely tradeoffs.”

Huge Oil on Trial

The documentary additionally checked out state and federal authorities makes an attempt to sue petroleum companies for allegedly deceptive the general public. The phase included the next alternate between Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney and Congressman Ro Khanna and ExxonMobil CEO, Darren Woods:

Maloney:   Mr. Woods I need to ask you about some public statements that your predecessor, Lee Raymond, made in 1996 and 1997 concerning the inconclusive nature of the scientific proof. Have been they per the views of Exxon’s personal scientists?

Woods:   Sure, Chairwoman. Thanks for the query. Our understanding of the science has been aligned with the consensus of the scientific neighborhood way back to twenty years in the past while you referenced our chairman-at-that-time’s feedback. And as science has developed  and developed, our understanding has developed and developed as has our work and place on the assertion.

Khanna:  However within the spirit of providing you with the prospect to show the web page for the corporate, I assume that you’d acknowledge that Mr. Raymond’s assertion was a mistake and the corporate regrets it. Appropriate?

Woods:   Mr. Raymond’s assertion was per the science of the time…

Khanna:  I don’t even need to argue that, Mr. Woods. I don’t even need to argue that. I assume that now that it’s a false assertion that the corporate regrets making it and would acknowledge that, proper?

Woods:   I believe that the expectation could be that we might take a look at the time it was stated…

Khanna:  Overlook whether or not it was constant or not, are you able to simply acknowledge that it was a mistake, and also you remorse that the assertion was on the market. Would you say that?

Woods:   I don’t assume that it’s honest to evaluate one thing twenty-five years in the past with what we’ve realized since that point…

Khanna:  Nicely, I’m disenchanted that you just’re not even keen to say that one thing is a mistake… 

In what world are folks obliged to apologize for understanding extra right now than they did 1 / 4 century in the past? And why would anybody apologize if state Attorneys Normal had been ready to pounce on such an announcement as an excuse to sue them into oblivion?

Following (A few of) the Cash

In two of its episodes, the BBC’s documentary touched on the query of who funded local weather skeptics whereas ignoring the query of funding for these on the opposite facet of the talk. NGOs, which had been well-represented within the interviews, have an curiosity in providing up scary situations of their fundraising efforts. And politicians who “by no means let a disaster go to waste,” are very happy to have a unending disaster that may be endlessly milked for votes and marketing campaign contributions.

Carbon Seize Rejected

Subsequent, the BBC criticizes ExxonMobil for investigating carbon seize, not as a result of it received’t work – the knowledgeable they interviewed admitted that it’s going to, although most early pilot initiatives have failed – however as a result of it can permit the world to proceed burning fossil fuels. But the world should go on utilizing fossil fuels till it is ready to convert to sensible options – options that aren’t simply theoretical however put in and working.

Forgoing analysis into carbon seize is smart provided that we will fairly count on to be off fossil fuels inside a number of years. However, with fossil fuels offering over 80% of the world’s power, full conversion shouldn’t be going to occur anytime quickly. Shutting down typical energy vegetation earlier than options are operational would deny power to billions of individuals, forcing them to ravage the earth’s forests in determined makes an attempt to warmth their houses and prepare dinner their meals. In simply the previous few months, Germans, confronted with hovering power costs, have been attempting to find firewood earlier than chilly climate units in.

Whether or not local weather change will end in disaster remains to be an open scientific query. However there isn’t any query that we will create disaster if we panic and dictate conversion from fossil fuels earlier than we’ve programs to which we will convert.


In its Ahab-like give attention to harpooning ExxonMobil, the BBC missed a chance to discover the big challenges concerned in changing fossil fuels. The prices of ignoring these challenges might be tragically placed on show this winter when Europeans face freezing temperatures with nothing however BBC-approved energy programs to maintain them heat.


Richard W. Fulmer is the coauthor (with Robert L. Bradley Jr.) of Power: The Grasp Useful resource (Kendall-Hunt: 2004) and the creator of quite a few articles, ebook opinions, and weblog posts within the classical-liberal custom. 

This concludes a three-part collection (Episode I right here; Episode II right here)

For different posts on the identical topic (with Robert Bradley Jr.), see:

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