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Shell has launched a new 'climate tech' startup, promoting job opportunities in the oil and gas industry, seen by some as a deceptive move to gain legitimacy.
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Shell has launched a new ‘climate tech’ startup, promoting job opportunities in the oil and gas industry, seen by some as a deceptive move to gain legitimacy.

A newly established and modern startup has recently launched with the goal of promoting the energy transition. They aim to connect numerous innovators from around the world to address complex energy and climate issues.

The venture, Onward, is owned by Shell, a company that brought in $28bn in profits from oil and gas last year. The company’s website says it is “accelerating pathways to energy innovation”, serving as a “hub for innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurialism”, and creating a “compelling, evidence-based picture of the benefits of a net-zero future”. Team bios include descriptions of an ideal day “in our clean energy future”: kitesurfing, snorkeling and hiking.

Despite the use of environmentally-friendly language and imagery, an investigation by Drilled and the Guardian has revealed that a significant portion of the content on the Onward platform is geared towards enhancing oil and gas results.

The “Projects” section on the website features a temporary job listing for various positions in the field of oil and gas exploration. The names of the hiring companies are not disclosed. Out of the five listed projects, four are specifically for oil and gas production. Additionally, there are numerous archived jobs on the platform that also seem to be related to oil and gas.

One post seeks individuals to perform a “comprehensive evaluation of the petroleum system”; another is in search of candidates who can comprehend “estimates of subsurface fluid resources along the US Gulf Coast”. Another is advertising a job for mapping reservoirs in the Nile Delta using seismic analysis.

According to technology critic and podcast host Paris Marx, initiatives such as Onward allow Shell to give the appearance of addressing solutions rather than simply worsening the climate crisis, as stated in an interview with Drilled.

Onward is the most recent of numerous climate technology initiatives undertaken by companies in the fossil fuel industry.

The company Shell has established a minimum of three additional initiatives to fund energy startups. In 2022, the company reported a significant increase of 89% in investments for “low-carbon energy solutions” compared to the previous year.

Saudi Aramco, the biggest oil company in the world, holds a $7 billion fund and has investments in renewable energy, storage technology, carbon capture and storage, as well as innovative fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia. Exxon also plans to invest $7 billion in carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, and more environmentally-friendly fuels by 2027. In January, executives from Shell, Chevron, SoCal Gas, BP, Southern Company, and Saudi Aramco were all invited to a clean technology conference in San Diego.

Nevertheless, numerous specialists argue that these endeavors are mainly a component of a comprehensive greenwashing tactic.

The top global organization on climate change has declared that all oil and gas exploration must stop globally by 2030 in order to prevent the severe consequences of the climate emergency. However, despite their claims of investing in climate technology and solutions, major fossil fuel corporations continue to increase production and disregard previous commitments and goals. One such company, Shell, has also shifted their focus under the leadership of new CEO Wael Sawan, prioritizing oil production over previous climate commitments, despite record profits in the first quarter of 2023.

Both Drilled and the Guardian have reached out to Onward multiple times for comments. They have asked about the companies that sponsored Onward’s “Projects” listing and if advertising for jobs that support oil and gas production goes against Onward’s goal of achieving a Net Zero future. An Onward spokesperson did not directly address the questions but instead provided a press release and press kit about the company’s rebranding.

During discussions with other companies, Onward’s CEO, Jeff Allyn, expressed the company’s goal of addressing complex issues such as “scope 3” emissions through the energy transition. Allyn stated to Axios in February that by involving more individuals in the community, they can expedite the development of fresh and inventive solutions to the obstacles we encounter.

According to Melissa Aronczyk, a professor at Rutgers University, the idea of working together to address the climate crisis is frequently mentioned in the public communications of the oil and gas industry.

She stated that the concept of collaboration suggests that all individuals have an equal role in this movement and are united in the fight against climate change, but that is not the reality.

Aroczyk mentioned that during recent UN climate conferences, the inclusion of oil and gas companies, their lobbyists, and other polluters has been presented as a form of cooperation. However, these invitations have only allowed them to continue hindering necessary measures.

She described it as a deceptive tactic to appear legitimate. By claiming that the climate movement requires everyone’s involvement, you are actually introducing individuals with conflicting ideas about how to address the climate crisis.

Source: theguardian.com