Beyond Petroleum?

Today’s Washington Post carries a full-page ad by BP boasting that the company, which calls itself “beyond petroleum,” is “investing up to $8 billion over the next ten years in solar, wind, natural gas and hydrogen to provide low carbon electricity.”

“By 2015,” the ad continues, “we estimate that our business will eliminate CO2 emissions by 24 million metric tons a year. It’s a start.”

Let’s put this in perspective. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), world CO2 emissions in 2004 totaled 27,043 million metric tons. EIA projects that world CO2 emissions will increase to 33,663 million metric tons by 2015. So BP is investing $8 billion to eliminate 7/100ths of 1% of annual CO2 emissions in 2015. Instead of growing to 33,663 million metric tons, global CO2 emissions will grow to 33,639 million metric tons. Now that’s what I call “beyond petroleum”! Not.

More importantly, CO2’s potential influence on global climate depends on total CO2 levels, not annual emissions, and whatever impact BP’s investment has on CO2 levels will be too small to detect.

So BP’s “start” is actually a “stunt,” as in publicity stunt.