According to the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), the oil and gas industry should abandon the belief that carbon capture technology is a solution to climate change and instead invest more in clean energy.

IEA executive director Fatih Birol (pictured above) made the statement in a report published to the IEA website on Thursday. Carbon capture technology involves capturing carbon dioxide from industrial processes and storing it underground to prevent emissions.

Oil and gas companies have invested massive sums into carbon capture in recent years. For instance, oil companies in Alberta, Canada, are currently proposing a $16.5 billion CA ($12 billion US) carbon capture project to help them reach their emissions reductions goals.

Birol emphasized that oil and gas companies must confront the reality that a successful transition to clean energy will require scaling back their own operations instead of expanding them.

According to Birol, the oil industry must invest 50% of capital expenditures in clean energy projects by 2030 in order to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Currently, oil and gas companies have only allocated around 2.5% of their capital spending to clean energy.

The report from the IEA cautioned against excessive reliance on carbon capture. While carbon capture is vital in certain sectors for achieving net zero emissions, it should not be used as a means to maintain the status quo.

The report estimated that 32 billion tons of carbon would need to be captured and stored by 2050 to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius. According to CNBC, this would require more energy than the entire worldwide demand in 2022.

From a financial perspective, oil companies would need to spend 100% of their revenues on carbon capture for the technology to stabilize global temperatures.

Energy analysts have been questioning the effectiveness of carbon capture long before the IEA report. The world’s largest carbon capture facility, which is currently under construction in Iceland, will only be able to remove 0.0001% of the world’s annual CO2 emissions when completed.

Nevertheless, carbon capture remains popular on both sides of the political aisle in the United States. The 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provided $12 billion in funding for carbon capture technology.

Image Source: IEA