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first_img‘Best Scientists and Best Minds’ at Oil Companies Failed To Innovate When They Had the Chance FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享By Matt Smith for Vice News:Around the same time NASA was planning its moon missions, US oil companies were working on technologies that could have reduced greenhouse gas emissions.Scientists and engineers had submitted patents for techniques to peel carbon dioxide out of fossil fuel exhaust, boost engine efficiencies, and produce electricity from fuel cells, according to industry documents released Thursday. They also pondered ways of offsetting the expected effects of increased carbon dioxide levels by pouring sulfur particles into the air to reflect solar energy back into space, or manipulating the weather to control smog.But the industry ultimately settled on raising doubts about whether any effort to rein in carbon emissions was needed to head off the threat of global warming, according to the researchers who have collected those records.“Faced with the knowledge of climate change and climate risks, particularly by the latter part of the 1960s, the oil companies had a choice,” said Carroll Muffett, president of the Washington-based Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). “They could invest in responding to and reducing that risk, or they could invest and continue to exploit oil and to look for ways to explain away climate change and explain away climate risk. Our research strongly suggests they chose that second path.”…The CIEL documents could spell trouble for other companies, said Tom Sanzillo, finance director at the Cleveland-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).“There is a clear potential — I would say a high likelihood — of multiple levels of litigation against oil companies,” said Sanzillo, the former chief of the New York state pension fund. Those could include private lawsuits as well as government actions; there’s also the prospect of a revolt by stockholders who find the company facing unexpected liabilities or a congressional investigation.“This looks like it’s pretty serious, and it just seems to get worse,” he said.CIEL’s previous release revealed industry studies from the 1950s and ’60s that identified the burning of fossil fuels as a contributor to the rise of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. A 1968 study produced for the API warned that rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere “may be the cause of serious world-wide environmental changes.”But around the same time, oil companies began promoting alternative theories for climate change that scientists had discounted, such as changes in the sun’s intensity or the orbit of the Earth. A 1968 paper co-sponsored by Gulf Oil declared that cyclical changes in the Earth’s axis “must be recognized as the number-one contender in the climatic sweepstakes.”“They resurrected the theory of astronomical or solar-driven climate change that had been moribund for years,” Muffett said. “Industry-funded research resurrected it, and it’s become a go-to argument for climate denialists even to this day.”Sanzillo said the oil companies had “the best scientists and the best minds,” and may have been far more aware of the risks than the nascent environmental movement in the 1960s and ’70s. But that means they “bear a certain responsibility,” he added.“It’s a shame that many of the technological innovations that they were developing didn’t come to fruition,” he said. “The oil companies, as a research entity, are probably some of the best minds in the world on energy, and it’s unfortunate that they’ve not helped to develop real solutions over the decades. That’s what society was looking to them for.”Full article: https://news.vice.com/article/the-oil-industry-sought-patents-for-low-carbon-technologies-decades-ago-then-abandoned-themlast_img read more

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