BP Finds Sustainability in Oil and Gas, Sells Off Wind

Only a month ago BP – which not long ago promoted itself as “Beyond Petroleum” – released an “energy outlook” video that projected 99 percent of America’s energy will be supplied domestically by 2030, in part because it says the U.S. will grow production from renewable sources 202 percent by that time. Just don’t expect BP to participate in the alleged alternative energy “boom.” The London-based petroleum producer announced last week it would dump its investments in U.S. wind energy projects, which were said to be worth $3.1 billion. It’s hard to believe they’re really worth that much, however, especially without government subsidies – not to mention the fact that BP is so easily discarding “assets” that are supposed to hold great value. The move follows a December 2011 announcement that the company would exit the solar business.

So where does BP think – its “outlook” notwithstanding – the future of the energy really is? Well, the same place it has been in the past: with fossil fuels. “BP has decided to market for sale our U.S. wind energy business as part of a continuing effort to become a more focused oil and gas company and re-position the company for sustainable growth into the future,” said Mark Salt, a company spokesman. “For BP, this effort represents another example of prudent and active management of our global portfolio, consistent with our pledge to unlock more value for shareholders.”

Environmentalists’ heads must be ready to explode. For years their pressure groups had slapped oil companies like BP and ConocoPhillips into submission, waging corporate campaigns to get them to adopt their centuries-old, inefficient sources of power generation – wind and solar – to appease their feel-goodism. They even succeeded in getting the oil giants to join the U.S. Climate Action Partnership for a time, until they exited in February 2010. Now BP, the “greenest” of the fossil fuel behemoths, is saying the way forward for its own “sustainability” is in oil and gas!

Adding insult to injury for the eco-zealots, BP is just emerging financially from huge fines and a publicity disaster caused by its April 2010 explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Bloomberg News estimates that catastrophe may cost the company $42 billion. Yet BP officials don’t see renewables as the path to recovery, but rather a refocus on the fuels the market truly demands: fossil fuels.

To re-emphasize:

  • An enormous environmental accident gushed for weeks…
  • Which led to disastrous economic consequences to many other industries, such as seafood and tourism
  • Enviro-activists still harp about the spill to this day
  • Local, state and federal governments heavily mandate and subsidize (“stimulate”) wind and solar
  • The Obama administration demonizes the fossil fuel industries on a daily basis and…
  • Raises the cost of their production by obstructing leases for drilling and projects like the Keystone pipeline

And despite all those financial and practical obstacles thrown in its path, BP still sees the best way forward is to reject renewables and refocus on oil and gas. There may be no greater an indictment of wind and solar energy than BP’s rejection, especially under these circumstances.

BP first showed its discontent with renewables when it bailed out on its 40-year solar business almost a year and a half ago – only four years after it had received a $7.5 million Department of Energy grant. BP Solar had just closed its only U.S. manufacturing facility, in Frederick, Md., the year before. The company had said it would outsource its production of solar photovoltaic panels to China and India, and then-CEO Tony Hayward told the Washington Post it was “moving to where we can manufacture cheaply.”

BP auctioned equipment in January 2012 from the closed solar plant, and with bankrupt Solyndra fresh in its memory, an experienced industrial auctioneer told the Frederick News-Post, “We’ve been doing more solar technology auctions lately.” One witness to the auction described a “somber scene” in which equipment was sold off in the midst of a storm that dumped nine inches of snow in northwest Maryland.

So much for the excuse that U.S. solar companies “can’t compete” because of the cheap, heavily subsidized production of panels in China and India. BP sent its manufacturing to those places, which would presumably have made solar viable, and it still shut down – even with its own U.S. grants. It was a fast and steep fall for BP Solar, which only six months earlier had produced a video (which BP has now removed from its YouTube channel) that espoused the innovative qualities of its solar panels.

Similarly now, a month after its rosy “energy outlook” video that promoted renewables growth, BP has dumped wind. The fact that such a globally known energy icon, which for a long time placed its sensitivity to environmental causes ahead of its core profit-making business, has bailed on the movement also shows how much the cause and concern for global warming has been depreciated in just a few years. As both temperature trends and public polls indicate, the climate “threat” that alarmists have tried to drum into the national conscience has fizzled away.

Clearly BP no longer fears the environmentalists’ messaging. Despite the Gulf disaster, sound economics, usable energy and scientific truth have won the day with BP’s decisions to quit solar and wind. Too bad politicians can’t see the light.

Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center and publishes CarolinaPlottHound.com, an aggregator of North Carolina news.