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Shell’s Latest Magic Trick: A ‘Climate Tech’ Mirage With an Oil-Stained Rabbit

Posted by John Donovan: 26 Feb 24

Well, buckle up, eco-warriors and climate change aficionados, for the latest episode of “How to Paint Your Carbon Footprint Green,” starring none other than Shell, the behemoth of black gold, in its newest role as a green wizard! In a dazzling display of environmental sleight of hand, Shell has pulled a rabbit out of its oily hat with the launch of Onward, a ‘climate tech’ startup. Brace yourselves for a journey into the future of clean energy, as envisioned by the very architects of our current fossil-fueled predicament.

Onward, with the finesse of a seasoned magician, touts itself as the harbinger of the energy transition, promising to “[connect] thousands of innovators across the globe to tackle difficult energy and climate challenges.” But before you dust off your kitesurfing gear and snorkels in anticipation of this clean energy utopia, let’s peek behind the curtain, shall we?

Despite the verdant veneer and eco-friendly fanfare, an analysis by Drilled and the Guardian reveals that Onward’s platform is more oil slick than green meadow. Its “Projects” section, ostensibly a job board for the future of energy, is awash with opportunities to further entrench ourselves in the fossil fuels of yesteryear. From “coherent petroleum system assessment” to mapping reservoirs with seismic analysis in the Nile Delta, it’s like reading a love letter to carbon emissions.

And as if the plot couldn’t thicken any further, Paris Marx, a technology critic and host of the Tech Won’t Save Us podcast, drops a truth bomb, saying projects like Onward “[allow] Shell to pretend it’s helping find solutions instead of just accelerating the climate crisis.” Shocked? Neither were we.

But wait, there’s more! Shell, in a move of unparalleled environmental heroism, has invested—brace yourselves—89% more in “low-carbon energy solutions” than the previous year. A figure that’s as reassuring as a band-aid on a gaping wound, especially when juxtaposed with the world’s leading climate authority’s dire warning: cease all oil and gas exploration by 2030 or face the music.

Yet, in a plot twist no one saw coming (read: everyone saw coming), Shell’s new CEO, Wael Sawan, has decided that the best way forward is, well, backward. Under his visionary leadership, Shell is doubling down on oil production. Because, as everyone knows, the best way to achieve a net-zero future is to pump more oil, right?

In response to inquiries about this apparent paradox, an Onward representative offered the equivalent of a shrug in the form of a press release and a press kit. Meanwhile, Onward’s CEO, Jeff Allyn, waxes lyrical about solving “thorny problems” like “scope 3” emissions through—wait for it—collaboration. Because if there’s anything that will save us from the climate crisis, it’s definitely more buzzwords and corporate jargon.

So there you have it, folks. In the grand tradition of Trojan horses, Shell’s Onward initiative stands as a testament to the oil and gas industry’s unyielding commitment to, well, oil and gas. And as for tackling the climate crisis? Maybe next quarter.


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