6 ways Shell keeps us addicted to oil and gas

Shell is a commercial company that earns its money simply by meeting a demand, notes Shell CEO Ben van Beurden. Unfortunately, that’s not the whole story. That’s because Shell is actively working to ensure that the demand for oil and gas remains high and the demand for alternatives low. In this article, you will find an overview of 6 ways how Shell does this.

Shell is one of the largest polluters in the world. It emits twice as much CO2    as the entire Netherlands put together. If we want to prevent the earth from warming up by more than 1.5 degrees Celcius, companies like Shell will have to change.

Unfortunately, that does not happen automatically. That is why we have initiated a lawsuit. In December we’ll be facing Shell in court for the first time.

1. Shell teaches children that we won’t be able to live without oil and gas for a long time to come

Fossil energy companies, including Shell, create their own teaching materials   for schools in which they explain how the energy transition is going to take a very long time. According to Shell,  gas is part of the solution to the climate crisis. They tell children we will depend on oil and gas for a long time to come. 

The fact that fossil fuel use must come to an end is never mentioned in any of their teaching materials. During Generation Discover, a festival organised by Shell (and subsidised by the Municipality of The Hague!), Shell used a jigsaw puzzle to try to convince children that the energy mix in 2050 will still consist of at least 70% oil, coal and gas. Shell also has strong ties to various universities.

2. Shell uses its influence to oppose climate policy

Shell often leaves the initiative to governments when it comes to drafting regulations. At the same time, behind the scenes, Shell and industry organisations with which the company is affiliated, are doing everything they can to oppose or weaken climate policies. Here, for example, are a few of the European Commission proposals that Shell opposes:

  • a proposal to reduce the emissions of transport fuels;
  • efficiency requirements for refineries;
  • limiting gas-flaring emissions;
  • EU-wide, non-sector-specific emission reductions;
  • country-specific (post-2020) EU targets for the growth of sustainable energy and increased energy efficiency.

Along  with other oil companies, Shell has lobbied heavily to designate natural gas as the fuel of the future. As a result, Shell is among the top 5 oil and gas companies with the greatest negative influence on climate policy.

3. Shell continues to invest in new oil and gas infrastructure

By continuing to invest in new oil and gas infrastructure, Shell is ensuring that we will remain addicted to oil and gas for a long time to come. After all, the lifespan of oil and gas infrastructure is often more than 30 years.  So the new infrastructures that Shell is building (often with substantial subsidies) will have to be used for a long time to recoup the invested money.

Shell readily admits that its increased investments in fossil fuel infrastructures make it increasingly costly to rapidly switch to sustainable initiatives. And yet, 95% of the company’s investments continue to go to oil and gas.

4. Shell recommends its non-sustainable oil and gas as sustainable

Shell has been reprimanded on numerous occasions for misleading advertising. In 2008, the UK advertising code committee rebuked Shell for a misleading advertisement that appeared in the Financial Times, in which Shell suggests that investing in tar sand oil ensures a sustainable future and helps combat climate change. A year earlier, Shell was turned upside down by both the English and Dutch advertising code committees for misleading environmental claims about the reuse of CO2.

In 2011, they received a reprimand for a misleading advertisement in which Shell claims that natural gas was clean. The company was furious when a former Shell PR manager pointed out in an article in the Vrij Nederland that Shell’s advertising policy had been referred to as ‘a parade of lies and half-truths’ by various objective analysts.

And Shell continues to fail to learn its lessons: in 2017, Maarten Wetselaar, the head of Shell’s global gas and renewable energy branch, reiterated that the fossil fuel industry must ensure everyone that gas is considered part of the solution to the climate crisis and not part of the problem.

5. Shell influences the demand for oil and gas with its own scenarios

Shell makes its investments based on scenarios that assume very high levels of growth in the demand for oil and gas. Much greater than other companies tend to forecast. Shell’s own scenario for the future also assumes that we’ll be able to eliminate CO   from the air on a large scale using largely unproven technologies.

Shell also exerts an influence on the scenarios created by the International Energy Agency.  Shell certainly didn’t pay the 2 authors of the most recent International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook without expecting something favourable in return.

6. Shell continues to lobby for subsidies and tax breaks for oil and gas

By lobbying for fossil fuel subsidies and tax breaks, Shell ensures that it’ll be able to invest tax money and benefits to profit even more from its investments in oil and gas. The state aid that Shell receives is so extensive that the company paid no net taxes in Germany in 2017, and actually received a tax refund!

Dutch government support for fossil fuels accounts for approximately   €7.6 billion   in handouts annually. Moreover, Shell does not even bear the costs of the climate crisis and environmental pollution. That’s why oil and gas seem inexpensive. But a large portion of the bill – for the environment, health and climate expenses – ends up with the taxpayer.

Help us win the court case of the century

We have initiated a climate lawsuit against Shell. We want the judge to force Shell to bring its business plans in line with the Paris Agreement. Would you like to help us make a big deal out of this? Then share this article.