A crash in oil prices has confirmed the dominance of fossil fuels, OPEC ministers and other energy producers said on Thursday, but they also stated their commitment to fighting the pollution they generate.
Even the environmentalists who addressed the final day of an OPEC seminar acknowledged oil was a fuel for the future, with oil, gas and coal expected to account for around 80 percent of the world's energy until 2030.
Fighting climate change cannot realistically mean fighting oil. Fighting climate change means fighting emissions, Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. climate change secretariat, told the conference.
A $100 barrel price drop from a record hit last year has hurt oil producers, but is a bigger threat to those generating environmentally-friendly fuels, which are considered commercially viable as alternatives to expensive oil.
Low oil prices are the enemies to research into alternative sources, said ENI Chief Executive Officer Paolo Scaroni.
What affects oil prices affects other energy sources. Oil must be at the center of any concept of sustainable development.
He pitched the ideal price for maintaining investment in new oil production, while still ensuring conservation and investment in alternative fuels, at between $60 and $70, not far from the roughly $75 repeatedly cited by OPEC as a sustainable price.
Oil has rallied from a low in December of $32.40 and on Thursday traded above $50, but is far below last year's high.
OPEC EMBRACES CCS
While their profits have been eroded, representatives of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said they were committed to investing in environmental technologies and the words carbon capture and storage were on every minister's lips.
Iran, for instance, was supportive of any (environmental) measures, including carbon capture and storage, Iranian Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari said.
Algeria has a CCS project at a gas field deep in the Sahara, while the United Arab Emirates plans to develop a nation-wide network transporting carbon emissions from power plants to oilfields.
CCS technology has yet to be developed on a commercial scale that could absorb the huge quantities of carbon produced by coal-fired power stations the world over.
But the oil industry's experience in pumping carbon dioxide into oilfields to increase pressure and enable more oil to be pumped out gives it the potential to be at the vanguard.
OPEC members have an important role to play in researching clean sources of energy... It would put OPEC at the cutting edge of the transition to lower emissions technology, said de Boer. Saudi Arabia's representative to the U.N. climate change secretariat said oil producers could suffer economically from climate change mitigation policies and that the developed world, which has polluted for generations, should share the financial burden.
We are ready to bear our fair share but no more. We are ready to engage as long as a fair share goes to the oil producers and not more than that, said Mohammad al-Sabban.