The Guardian • Issue #1976

The farce of BHP turning away from fossil fuels

BHP, the world’s second largest mining company, is selling off a lot of its global gas and oil assets to Australian outfit Woodside Petroleum. As a result of this merger Woodside shareholders will own fifty-two per cent of shares in the company, while BHP shareholders would own the other forty-eight per cent. This move is being seen by many as the mining giant moving away from fossil fuels and towards Woodside’s predominantly natural gas and liquified natural gas (LNG) production.

However, Woodside is not entirely focussed on gas; they are currently engaged in searching for oil in Bulgaria and off the coast of the Congo, Senegal, and Ireland. So BHP’s assets will not stop producing oil as a result of this merger, they’ll just be doing it for other shareholders. For context, in 2019, the emissions produced by BHP totalled 567mil tonnes of carbon dioxide globally which were more than Australia’s total domestic emissions that year.

The sleight of hand BHP and other major polluting companies are pulling is that they’re cashing out on failing assets while trying to palm off the responsibility for past and ongoing damage to the climate on other companies. One should not forget that BHP will still be mining iron, nickel, and other products even after the merger.

These polluting assets must be decommissioned and these companies need to bear the brunt of the cost. Given the tremendous amount of profits these companies have reaped, it would also not be an unreasonable demand for them to protect the livelihoods of their workers during the transition to renewable energy.

If mining companies were truly invested in moving away from fossil fuels they’d be investing in renewable energy, not finding different ways to make gas or coal “cleaner.” As was stated in Guardian #1972 “Major floods a timely reminder to humanity’s greatest threat.”, climate change is the single greatest threat to our survival.

A number of Australian unions have been campaigning recently pushing for a just transition to a renewable energy future. A new report on Australia’s offshore wind potential has been in part funded by the maritime, electrical and manufacturing unions, and calls on federal and state governments to take immediate steps towards the development of an industry which has the potential to create thousands of jobs for workers currently working in fossil fuel industries.

As the writing on the wall becomes clearer and clearer, the tides are turning in the fossil fuel industry. But make no mistake, it is not out of benevolence, it is about their bottom line.

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