Equilibrium/Sustainability — Oil’s diversity push crashes into abortion politics 

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Texas’s restrictive position on abortion is thwarting attempts by the state’s oil industry to draw younger and more diverse talent.

“It has always been difficult to attract women into oil and gas,” Sherry Richard, a human resources professional with 40 years in the oil industry, told Reuters. 

“When you create an environment that is unfriendly to women, it just makes it harder,” Richards added. 

More than half of women between the ages of 18 and 44 said they would not apply for jobs in a state that banned abortion, Reuters reported, citing a PerryUndem poll.

Divisive state politics around abortion and religion in public schools caused attorney Hayley Hollands to leave the state for Colorado with her husband — a former oil worker, she told Reuters. 

“It is kind of the first time I’ve reckoned with the idea that I don’t think I’m going to live in my home state ever again,” Hollands said. 

Oil companies themselves have attempted to split the difference — quietly offering employees support to travel for health care without specifically mentioning abortion, Reuters reported. 

Meanwhile, they continue to donate largely to conservative candidates, employees complained. 

“Companies say they value employee’s rights and yet finance politicians who violate my rights and wellbeing,” one engineer at oilfield service firm Halliburton told Reuters.  

Welcome to Equilibrium, a newsletter that tracks the growing global battle over the future of sustainability. We’re Saul Elbein and Sharon Udasin. Send us tips and feedback. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

Today we’ll start in Puerto Rico, where residents are in danger of serious shortages. Then we’ll see why President Biden may be considering ousting the World Bank chief. Plus: A look at how aerosol pollution is worsening the effects of climate change. 

“This is hypocrisy,” she added. 

Puerto Ricans fear shortages as stores close 

Businesses in Puerto Rico are shutting their doors as power outages caused by Hurricane Fiona persist across the island, The Associated Press reported.  

Meeting basic needs: These closures have triggered fears about the availability of fuel and other necessities, according to the AP. 

  • About 62 percent of 1.47 million customers still do not have power more than four days after the storm occurred.  
  • Hand-written signs indicating closures are increasingly popping up on storefronts, eliciting frustration.  

“There are a lot of people with a lot of needs,” one retiree told the AP. “If there is no diesel, we’re going to be very much in harm’s way.” 

Some of those needs are life-or-death: Luis De Jesús Ramos, who has throat cancer and a tracheostomy, relies on electricity for survival, NBC News reported.  

  • De Jesús Ramos needs a blender for liquid meals, a refrigerator, an adjustable bed for safe sleeping and various medical supplies. 
  • “He really needs these things. It’s an emergency,” his daughter told NBC.  

Health depends on electricity: After hearing about De Jesús Ramos’s condition, a team from Direct Relief Puerto Rico — an NGO that donates medical supplies — brought a generator to his home, according to NBC.  

“Without electricity, there is no health,” Ivonne Rodríguez-Wiewall, executive adviser of Direct Relief Puerto Rico, told NBC. 

Federal funding efforts: As Puerto Rico’s residents were still coping with the fallout from Fiona, President Biden on Thursday said that the federal government is “laser-focused” on the situation, our colleague Brett Samuels reported for The Hill.  

The day before, he had signed an expedited major disaster declaration, to authorize federal funding for debris removal, rescue efforts and power and water restoration.  

Biden pledges to stand by Puerto Rico: “To the people of Puerto Rico who are still hurting from Hurricane Maria five years later, they should know: We are with you,” Biden said.  

“We’re not going to walk away,” the president added. 

Biden considers removing head of World Bank  

The Biden administration is considering ousting World Bank President David Malpass — a Trump appointee whose wavering this week on climate change angered many in the financial and environmental communities alike, Axios reported. 

What did he say? Asked at New York’s climate week if he accepted the scientific consensus on climate change, Malpass hedged, according to CNN.

  • “I don’t even know – I’m not a scientist and that is not a question,” Malpass said. 
  • He later told CNN “I’m not a denier” and circulated a note to staff blaming climate change on particular fossil fuels.

Leaving out oil and gas: Malpass added in his note that “coal, diesel and heavy fuel oil in both advanced economies and developing countries is creating another wave of the climate crisis,” Reuters reported. 

Why it matters: Malpass’s message was poorly received due to an ongoing debate “about how all the capital sitting in the bank can be deployed more quickly and assertively,” Rachel Kyte of Tuft University’s Fletcher School told The New York Times. 

  • Kyte added that this is particularly urgent “given the situation the world is in.” 
     
  • She noted that Malpass’s original statement had come in the context of a subject that is “an open wound.” 

Aerosols may worsen the effects of climate change

Aerosol pollution is exacerbating the impact of climate change — with dramatically different effects depending on where these contaminants are emitted, a new study in Science Advances has found. 

What are aerosols? They’re tiny solid particles and liquid droplets emitted by industrial factories, power plants and tailpipes, the study authors explained.  

  • Aerosols contribute to smog, and unlike carbon dioxide, they hang close to their emission source.   
  • Some examples of aerosols include fine particulate matter — common in dust or wildfire ash — as well as sulfates, nitrates and sea salts. 

Different contaminants, different behaviors: Although carbon dioxide and aerosols are often emitted simultaneously during fuel combustion, these substances behave differently in the Earth’s atmosphere, according to co-lead author Geeta Persad.   

  • “Carbon dioxide has the same impact on climate no matter who emits it,” Persad, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a statement.  
  • Astay concentrated near where they’re emitted — meaning that their effects on the climate system is location-dependent, Persad added.  

Dramatic social costs: Depending on where they are emitted, aerosols can worsen the social costs of carbon — a measure for the economic toll greenhouse gasses take on society — by as much as 66 percent, according to the study. 

Aerosols vs. carbon: The scientists drew their conclusions by probing the influence of aerosols in eight regions of the world: Brazil, China, East Africa, Western Europe, India, Indonesia, United States and South Africa. 

  • They ran simulations with identical aerosol emissions in each region — mapping the effects on temperature, precipitation and surface air quality. 
  • Then they connected this data with known links between climate and infant mortality, crop productivity and domestic economies.  
  • Lastly, they calculated the societal costs of aerosol-driven effects and those of co-emitted CO2, as well as their combined effects. 

What did they find? The scientists observed that emissions from some regions generate climate and air quality effects that range from two to more than 10 times as strong as others.  

Yet despite these discrepancies, they stressed that aerosol emissions are always bad for the emitter and the planet.  

Thinking beyond carbon dioxide: “The harmful effects of our emissions are generally underestimated,” co-lead author Jennifer Burney, a chair of global climate policy and research at the University of California San Diego, said in a statement.  

“CO2 is making the planet warmer, but it also gets emitted with a bunch of other compounds that impact people and plants directly and cause climate changes in their own right,” Burney added.  

A global push for carbon capture 

A flurry of new carbon capture and storage proposals are arising around the world, as part of a global attempt to counter the impacts of fossil fuel dependence. 

  • The specific reasons for these projects are as diverse as their locations, which range from Appalachia to China
    .  
  • They are being built in an attempt to slow global warming, produce new fuels, prolong the lifespan of fossil fuel assets or create credits to sell on international exchanges. 

Carbon capture refers to a broad set of processes by which the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is trapped for long-term storage or reuse in other industrial processes. 

Drawing down: The U.S. government is scouting possible sites for a test facility that would aim to cut the cost of pulling down carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. 

  • The facility would be located on a Department of Energy campus in either Morgantown, W.Va., or Pittsburgh.  
  • It would seek to drop the cost of capturing a ton of carbon dioxide below $100 — down from its current range of $400 to $1,000. 

Worldwide focus: “It is technically feasible to suck CO2 out of the air. The issue is cost, and the issue is scale,” National Energy Technology Laboratory director Brian Anderson told the Gazette. 

The laboratory wants to create methodologies for direct air capture that could be transferable to facilities around the world.  

  • Direct air capture specifically involves pulling carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. 
  • That’s distinct from carbon capture in general, which also includes siphoning the greenhouse gas from smokestacks. 

“We want to be able to simulate conditions that go from Antarctica to equatorial Africa,” Anderson said.  

OIL COMPANIES BUYING IN 

With direct air capture still an expensive frontier technology, the principal drivers behind carbon capture are the firms that are a major source of current carbon emissions: oil companies. 

Recycling Waste: Sinopec, China’s state-owned oil company, spun off a specialized subsidiary on Friday to invest in carbon capture technology, Reuters reported. 

  • The company aims to capture and store 3 million tons of carbon dioxide per year by 2025 — two-thirds of which it plans to reuse. 
  • China aims to reach carbon neutrality by 2060, which has driven companies like Sinopec to make big investments in carbon capture.

Making more oil: To pay for developing that technology, China is focusing in part on current usages for carbon dioxide, many of which do little to slow climate change.

  • Sinopec didn’t specify how its captured carbon dioxide would be used.  
  • But the company currently plans to inject over 10 million tons of carbon dioxide into oilfields over the next decade — enabling it to produce an additional 3 million tons of oil, Reuters reported. 

Last week, California outlawed this form of oil extraction, as we reported. 

Looking south: Across the South China Sea, Indonesia’s state-owned energy company — Pertamina — plans to begin testing methods to permanently store carbon dioxide underground by the end of the year, Reuters reported.  

  • If conditions are right, the greenhouse gas can be locked down as stone, as we previously reported.  
  • The initiative is part of Pertamina’s attempt to cut its emissions by 30 percent by 2030 — a goal the company aims to achieve in part by capturing emissions from smokestacks and injecting them underground. 

British bonanza: On the other side of the world, 19 companies applied for the U.K.’s first ever round of licenses to develop carbon capture and storage sites, according to Reuters. 

Britain aims to store up to 30 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2030, Reuters reported. 

  • Such sites would be in caverns beneath the porous seafloor of the North Sea, between Britain and Norway. 
  • British Petroleum, Norway’s state energy firm Equinor and Italy’s Eni all applied. 
  • One firm, London-based Neptune Energy, aims to store more carbon than it emits by 2030.  

Follow-up Friday

Revisiting issues we’ve covered over the past week. 

Thirty whales survive mass beaching crisis in Tasmania 

  • We reported on the tragic mass beaching in Tasmania of 230 pilot whales. Rescuers successfully saved just 32 — two of which died after running aground again, The Associated Press reported. The hundreds of remaining corpses will be “basically longlined or tied together, ready for disposal at sea,” an incident commander Brendon Clark said told the AP. 

North Carolinians angry about proposed expansion of PFAS-producing plant   

  • Scientists detected high levels of toxic “forever chemicals” — also known as PFAS — in school uniforms we covered earlier this week. Some North Carolinians expressed outrage on Friday about the proposed expansion of a Chemours factory that has leached PFAS into the nearby Cape Fear River, North Carolina Public Radio reported.  

Malfunctioning water tank may have caused NYC arsenic crisis 

Please visit The Hill’s Sustainability section online for the web version of this newsletter and more stories. We’ll see you Monday.

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