By Maria Gallucci
Oil is a well-known foe of the climate: Burning it to power cars or produce electricity creates harmful emissions of greenhouse gases. But each type of crude oil, it turns out, results in a unique carbon footprint, with some causing far more climate damage than others.
Now U.S. researchers have created an important yardstick that could change the way oil is sold, produced and regulated. By calculating the carbon costs of various kinds of crude and related petroleum products, they say companies and policymakers can make better decisions about which types of projects to pursue — especially if governments put a price on carbon dioxide emissions. Under such a scenario, oils with the highest emissions levels would be penalized the most, which would ultimately make crude more expensive to produce.
“There’s a business risk associated with carbon emissions,” Jonathan Koomey, a Stanford University research fellow, said at a Wednesday panel hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The Washington, D.C., think tank teamed with Stanford and the University of Calgary in Canada to create the Oil-Climate Index project, unveiled at the morning conference.
“Having the kind of information that we’ve generated here … will allow investors and other actors in the industry to take proactive steps and say, ‘Look, the greenhouse gas emissions from our fields are much better than those of our competitors,’” Koomey said. “That’s an example of where you could see differentiation among major players who want to gain an advantage [in a low-carbon future].”Read more