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    BP Quit Solar, Will Go 'Back to Petroleum'

    Written by

    Brian Merchant

    Senior Editor

    BP is ditching solar for more oil. Image: About

    Remember those wild and optimistic early aughts, where we thought anything was possible? Business was booming, the Strokes were bringing rock and roll back, no one had ever heard of a subprime mortgage—and British Petroleum had officially changed its name to BP, which stood for ‘Beyond Petroleum,’ and its logo to the gleaming source of solar power along with it. The sky, boys and girls, was the limit.

    Not anymore. Now that it has proved oil is a surefire bet by spilling millions of gallons of it all over everything, BP announced it has “thrown in the towel on solar” and is pulling out of the industry altogether. And that’s straight from the horse’s mouth: BP CEO Bob Dudley made clear that his company will have nothing to do with sun power, starting now.

    It’s ‘Back to Petroleum' then for BP. The company claims it will continue to invest in wind and biofuels, but it is clear where its money is really going to go: natural gas. And more oil, obviously.

    Just last month, the company made at least two multi-billion dollar investments in natural gas; one in Africa, and another $5 billion venture in India. Since 2011, the company has sunk over $2 billion into North Sea drilling operations, as well. And remember, BP’s annual profits are in the $11 billion range.

    All of which makes this news both curious and depressing. As the NPR Marketplace report on BP’s announcement makes clear, the solar industry is currently booming worldwide—and, in case anyone had forgotten, BP is still in the process of paying out billions of dollars for spilling fossil fuels all across the Gulf of Mexico.

    The market for renewables will only continue to grow bullish from here on out. With climate science increasingly urgent and crystal clear, more nations are coming to their senses and enacting or tightening up carbon taxes and greenhouse gas regulations and emissions trading schemes and so forth. See: Australia and China. In the long term, fossil fuels are a loser—without even taking into account the fact that oil, BP’s primo business, is getting harder and riskier to extract. I’ll turn your attention once more to the BP Gulf spill for Exhibit A. So that’s the curious part.

    The depressing part is that it means that BP’s analysts have decided that the financial forecast for oil and gas is worth betting on for the foreseeable future—in other words, that governments won’t take a hard enough line against climate change to make fossil fuels less unattractive in the midterm. It’s depressing that the biggest energy companies in the world continue to double down on oil, gas, and coal, though it’s not surprising.

    We’re on the brink of a fossil-fueled climate crisis—remember, it’s official now—and BP has up and decided to go back to petroleum.