Investing in Biodiesel and Renewable Energy

Major oil and gas companies Total and Marathon Petroleum Corporation are investing in renewable energy sources and updating their business plans to meet new carbon neutral goals by 2050.

Total, a French oil and gas producer, recently passed a resolution to rebrand itself as TotalEnergies as it begins investing in solar and wind energy. Total, the fourth-largest privately owned oil and gas producer in the world, is trying to position itself as a leader in clean energy investment. "We want to become a sort of green energy major," said chief executive Patrick Pouyanné in a recent BBC News interview.

American oil company, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, is converting its Martinez, California oil refinery to process renewable fuels exclusively. Marathon President and CEO Michael J. Hennigan said on their website, “Converting the Martinez refinery to a renewable fuels facility is an important addition to our growing portfolio of renewables projects…”

The Martinez facility is expected to produce lower carbon-emission fuel by 2022 and reach full output in 2023. Marathon’s main goals for the conversion include:

  • Producing approximately 730 million gallons per year of lower carbon-intensity renewable fuels
  • Significantly lowering greenhouse gas emissions, criteria air pollutants, and water use compared to petroleum refinery operations
  • Building on the company’s commitment to sustainability and lowering carbon intensity

Marathon estimates that its facility conversion will reduce the facility’s manufacturing greenhouse gas emissions by 60%, total criteria air pollutants by 70% and water use by 1 billion gallons every year.

Total, Marathon and international oil companies like Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon have been investing heavily in renewable energy since the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015. This landmark piece of legislation is an international treaty on climate change agreed upon by 196 countries.

The goal of the Paris Agreement is to bring global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. To achieve this long-term temperature goal, countries aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible to achieve a climate neutral world by mid-century.

Reaching global climate neutrality by 2050 is an ambitious goal and one that requires the cooperation of oil companies. In fact, the International Energy Agency recently released a report suggesting that fossil fuel production needs to slow down much more quickly than initially anticipated. "From an environmental perspective, we want these fossil fuels to stay in the ground - they're unburnable carbon," said Mike Coffin, senior analyst in oil and gas at financial think tank Carbon Tracker.

Though meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement is challenging, they are necessary for the future of the planet and the oil companies’ survival. As noted by Mr. Coffin, drilling for more oil is not productive for either the oil companies or our environment. The future lies with renewable energy, whether that’s solar, window, or low carbon emitting diesel.

The work of Total and Marathon is proof that the oil industry is receptive to science, able to adapt, and willing to be leaders in the fight against climate change. Diversifying their energy portfolio gives them an advantage as the world becomes less dependent upon fossil fuels and looks to alternatives.

Making changes on such a large scale also benefits the environment. As shown by Marathon’s refinery conversion, air pollution, carbon emission, and water use during the refining process will go down significantly. As other companies follow Total and Marathon’s example, we’ll slow down the effects of climate change, help stabilize our planet’s ecosystems and set a foundation for environmentally responsible business practices for generations to come.

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