Beyond Petroleum, the Ultimate Oxymoron

by Sara Montrone

August 5, 2008

 In 2000, BP, the third largest global oil company with exploration and production in 29 countries, decided to adopt a more publicly palatable green image. In re-branding from British Petroleum to Beyond Petroleum, they announced new goals for “Better people, better products, beyond petroleum.”  In practice, their paltry investments in renewable energy do little to outweigh the destructive effects of their continued focus on fossil fuels.  

Despite BP’s claimed dedication to moving Beyond Petroleum, their recent investments indicate little forward movement toward renewable energy. BP has no immediate plans to reduce oil production in favor of renewable energy.  They assure their stockholders that “10 billion barrels a year seems a sustainable rate of exploration discoveries for 15 to 20 years.”   That’s a lot of carbon.  

Worst of all, BP’s continued focus on fossil fuels is leading them to dirtier and dirtier sources.  Most recently, they’ve decided to start extracting oil from the controversial Canadian tar sands.  BP had previously written off this source as inefficient and unprofitable.  Now that oil prices have skyrocketed, BP can afford to tap this source and are doing so in full force with a joint investment with Husky Energy of 3 billion dollars.

This is some dirty oil. Processing oil from the tar sands, which is heavier and requires more refining than most grades of crude is even more harmful for the environment than conventional refining.  BP plans on dumping 50 percent more ammonia and 35 percent more suspended solids into Lake Michigan from its refinery in Whiting, Ind.  

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