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Betraying 'Beyond Petroleum' Slogan, BP's Main Focus Still Fossil Fuels

BP has not only greatly diminished clean energy investment, but is now keeping decades of R&D under 'lock and key'

BP has promised to be more open about its impact on climate change after 98 percent of shareholders on Thursday backed a resolution calling for greater transparency. (Photo: tolkien1914/flickr/cc)

Oil and gas giant BP, which once promised to go "beyond petroleum," will spend $20 billion on projects worldwide in 2015—but only a miniscule fraction of those investments will go into activities other than fossil fuel extraction, a Guardian investigation has established.

Whereas BP was once pumping hundreds of millions per year into green energy research and development, a closer look by the Guardian found that the British company "is doing far less now on developing low-carbon technologies than it was in the 1980s and early 1990s."

Not only has that level of spending fallen off dramatically, but BP has reportedly locked away much of its energy efficiency and renewable energy research from that era, leading climate activists to cry foul.

"By keeping this wealth of research under lock and key BP is putting narrow corporate interests before humanity's hopes to tackle one of its greatest challenges," a Greenpeace spokesman told the Guardian. "BP could score a PR victory by releasing this information, in the same way that Tesla released some of their energy patents to boost innovation in the sector. Not pursuing its clean energy project might have been a missed opportunity for BP, but the rest of us can’t afford to make the same mistake."

The fossil fuels behemoth held its annual general meeting on Thursday in London, at which BP shareholders overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for increased transparency around the company's climate change strategy.

Fully 98 percent of shareholders voted in favor of the resolution, which requires the company to publish more information on a range of issues, including whether the value of its oil and gas reserves will be damaged by limits on carbon emissions; its investments in low-carbon technology; the scale of carbon dioxide emissions from its operations; the linking of executive pay to greenhouse gas reduction; and its lobbying on climate change.

But for environmental activists protesting outside the annual general meeting on Thursday, such measures are meaningless if BP continues with practices such as tar sands extraction in Canada.

"BP continues to rush headlong into the tar sands, which is devastating communities, cultures, [and] ecosystems," said Suzanne Dhaliwal, director of the UK Tar Sands Network. "Extracting the CO2 contained in the Alberta tar sands projects alone is enough to take the entire planet past the two-degree increase that scientists agree is safe."

Earlier this week, six people were arrested when activists occupied BP's Houston headquarters as part of a week of action leading up to the five-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon environmental disaster. Citing the Gulf Coast region's "resilience," BP has been trying to get out of paying the full amount of the environmental penalties levied by U.S. prosecutors—but a recent study found that "wildlife are still struggling" to rebound in the area. 

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