French oil giant Total made waves early this year when it broke with the American Petroleum Institute, the largest and most powerful oil lobby in the United States, because of its stance on climate issues.
“There are areas of difference [with the API],” BP CEO Bernard Looney told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview Monday. Still, it’s “better [to] be inside and influencing than outside,” he added.
BP and the API diverge on certain issues, Looney said, emphasizing that the company enthusiastically backs the shift to electric cars, for example.
InfluenceMap, a London-based think tank focused on energy and climate change, has said the API “appears to be broadly hostile to progressive climate policy.” The lobby came under fire at a Congressional hearing last month for opposing a federal fee on methane, a major contributor to global warming.
Yet Looney pushed back on the notion that BP and the group should cut ties.
“Some of the things that they do [are] actually not about lobbying,” Looney said. “They actually develop safety standards for the entire industry. I think it’s important that we would be partaking in that.”
Oil and gas companies are under huge pressure to slash production of fossil fuels for the world to have a shot at limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid the worst effects of climate change.
BP said last year that it would pursue net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 in what Looney described as the “biggest restructuring in our history.” The company also set shorter-term targets as it tries to pivot its business away from oil and gas, promising a 10-fold increase in annual low carbon investments by 2030.
In the meantime, however, BP is benefiting from higher oil and gas prices, with crude trading above $80 per barrel and natural gas hitting record highs in Europe.
“We’re a cash machine at these types of prices,” Looney said on a call with analysts when the company reported bumper quarterly profits.
Looney told Amanpour on Monday that it remains important for a company like BP to have “a seat at the table” during the energy transition given its commitment to that transition. Few firms are in a position to meet society’s need for a complex system of clean, reliable and affordable energy.
“We are predominantly an oil and gas company today,” Looney said. “Equally, we have an ambition to become an integrated energy company. Unless we transition, the world’s not going to transition.”
— Wesley Oliver and Emmet Lyons contributed reporting.