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随着政府拥抱绿色能源,大型石油公司的政治影响力将减弱?

 

二战以来,跨国公司群体性崛起中的先锋当属大型石油公司,先有石油“七姊妹”,后有“五巨头”,再后来进入新的世纪,亚洲、欧洲和拉美的国家石油公司开始崛起,成为影响全球政治经济格局的重要力量,被称为塑造国际关系和国际秩序的“行为体”之一。即便全球能源产业开始加速转型的当下,2020年度全球财富500强前十名中,跨国石油公司仍占据其中五个席位。

 

但是,随着绿色能源时代的到来,跨国石油公司的影响力将可能出现下降趋势。本周微文翻译一篇英国金融时报能源记者David Sheppard在今年6月7日写的文章。其实,很多业内外研究人员和石油公司人员都可能有这个问题:随着各国政府拥抱绿色能源,大型石油公司的政治影响力到底有没有减弱?且看David Sheppard的分析。

 

 

(译文)

2007年,时任英国首相托尼·布莱尔和利比亚领导人穆阿默·卡扎菲在沙漠中的握手,不仅仅是改善双方一改此前“宿敌关系”的时刻,也是“大石油”(big oil)在一国外交政策中扮演重要角色的鲜明象征。布莱尔此次出访的一个显著成果是,BP与利比亚国家石油公司达成了一项重要的油气勘探开发合作协议,这是卡扎菲有意与西方国家改善关系的一个显著标志,也是利比亚石油大规模涌入欧洲消费市场的标志。

 


数十年来,对石油天然气等化石燃料资源的争夺一直影响着全球地缘政治态势,从西方和中东之间的冲突和关系塑造,到今天在俄罗斯和西欧之间的北溪2管线(Nord stream 2)管道上的博弈,无不如此。

 

但现在,西方大石油公司与其母国政府之间的关系正在发生戏剧性的转变。因为政府已致力于绿色发展,化石燃料失宠——这一举动在今年4月份美国总统乔·拜登推动召开的国际气候峰会上得到充分体现,西欧和美国政府的施压,要求减少排放,这加快了各国能源转型的步伐。

 

美国政府前能源分析师格雷格·普里迪 (Greg Priddy) 表示:“一直有一种观点认为,地缘政治权力与石油获取息息相关。” “即使在奥巴马政府时期,也有人认为美国在海外的石油主力生产商(埃克森美孚、雪佛龙等)仍具有战略重要性。但这一切都在改变。”

 

上个月,国际能源署(IEA)发布了一份报告,称如果世界要在 2050年之前将温室气体排放量减少到净零(Net Zero)——这是实现巴黎气候协议将全球变暖限制在温升1.5摄氏度的先决条件——则在工业企业层面,新油气田的勘探和投资必须立即停止。

 

实际上,在IEA报告发布之前,石油公司就已经显著削减了对前沿风险勘探的投资,它们担心石油消费量可能在未来十年达到顶峰。

 

而且,曾几何时,那些跨国石油巨头的公司高管,他们在东道国(资源国)的地位十分显赫,简直扮演着与大使几乎一样重要的角色,但现在,他们的影响力正在减弱。曾几何时,批评人士一直抱怨政府和石油集团之间存在“旋转门”,官员们在离开政府后进入该行业(最为典型的就是美国前总统切尼)。

 

但分析师表示,政府目前不希望被视为“脚踏两只船”,既大力推动基于可再生能源的国内议程,又在同时支持本国的跨国石油公司。

 

在美国——全球最大的石油生产国和消费国——拜登政府重新加入了巴黎协议,取消了 Keystone XL石油管道后续的建设工程,并提议对清洁能源进行额度空间的投资。

 

在国际上,白宫敦促其他国家停止为海外煤炭项目提供资金——上个月 G7国家承诺在今年年底前这样做——并要在气候峰会上扮演领导者。

 

随着华盛顿政府的更迭,我认为我们可能已经看到美国政府与石油公司的‘恋情’已到了黄昏(Twilight)”,加拿大皇家银行负责大宗商品资本市场研究的前中央情报局分析师Helima Croft如此说。

 

保障化石能源资源的获取曾经被华盛顿视为一个重大问题,但现在随着能源转型和气候变化,关注不再如此。”

 

但是,观察家警告说,推动全球向可再生能源过渡是一项复杂的工程,“即便随着低碳时代到来一些传统的地缘政治问题会不复存在,但在非化石能源时代,一定会产生其他的政治权利争夺问题”。

 

一些石油巨头表示,虽然他们一直以来拥有政府支持,但它们从不依赖政府来帮助他们获得资源,而且它们目前在许多国家仍然受到欢迎。

 

但行业人士认为,政府决策者可能会因为削弱与国内大型石油公司的联系,以及推动发展中国家远离化石燃料而失去应有的在全球的影响力。他们说,比如,美国应该利用自己庞大的油气资源来支持可能依赖俄罗斯等国家供应的潜在盟友,而不是削弱化石能源的地位

 

 “目前美国正与中国展开地缘政治竞争,争夺对世界许多地区的经济政治影响力”,一位前美国高级国家安全顾问表示,他现在为一家美国大型石油公司工作并要求匿名。“美国在液化天然气供应方面具有优势,但似乎不太热衷于使用它们。”

 

奥巴马总统的前特别助理兼哥伦比亚大学全球能源政策中心主任杰森·博尔多夫(Jason Bordoff)指出,全球对石油的需求仍然没有放缓。“IEA的路线图在强调需要改变的方面非常引人注目,但也令人震惊地表示一切都没有改变——石油需求仍在上升”,博尔多夫说。他进一步强调,自然资源在外交政策中的作用将随着能源转型而演变,生产电池的关键矿物或对氢等替代燃料的获取,意味着大型原材料生产商与政府之间的关系将发生变化而不是消失

 

即使能源地缘政治的所有问题都通过脱碳解决,能源转型无疑会产生新的问题。”他说。

 

最终,高层的政治支持无法保护石油公司免受重大事件的影响。布莱尔可能为BP铺平了道路,但其在利比亚的投资并未取得应有的成果,2011年利比亚内战和随后的持续冲突阻断了BP在利比亚的投资与经营。

 

2018 年,BP将其一半的勘探权股份出售给了意大利埃尼公司。“政府和大型石油公司之间总是存在着一种有趣的关系,但我一直不太确定这种影响的走向。”查塔姆研究所(Chatham House)杰出研究员保罗·史蒂文斯(Paul Stevens)教授说。

 

但随着石油的时代行将结束,这些大石油公司正在为捍卫自己的实力而斗争,政府可以为他们做的真的不多。”

 


以下是英文原文:

 

Big Oil’s political clout wanes as governmentsembrace green energy

 

Transitionfrom fossil fuels will create new geopolitical relationships and tensions

 

The handshakebetween then UK prime minister Tony Blair and Muammer Gaddafi in the desert in2007 was not just the moment the Libyan leader cemented ties with an old foe.It was also a stark symbol of the role “Big Oil” played in foreign policy.

 

BP sealed asignificant exploration deal on the same trip, which capped its efforts tonudge the UK government to re-establish ties with the late North Africandictator while opening access to huge hydrocarbon resources on Europe’sdoorstep.

 

The strugglefor fossil fuel resources has influenced geopolitics for decades, fromgenerating conflict and shaping relations between the west and Middle East totoday’s controversy over the Nordstream 2 pipeline from Russia to westernEurope.

 

But now therelationship between western oil companies and their governments is undergoinga dramatic shift as governments commit to going green and fossil fuels fall outof favour — a move that gathered pace in April when US president Joe Bidenconvened an international climate summit to put pressure on countries to cutemissions.

 

“There hasalways been the notion that geopolitical power writ large was tied to oilaccess,” said Greg Priddy, a former energy analyst for the US government. “Evenas late as the Obama administration in the US there was a sense that majorproducers overseas were strategically important. But all that is changing.”

 

The shift washammered home last month when the International Energy Agency released a reportarguing that if the world was to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by2050 — a prerequisite to meet the Paris climate accord goal of limiting globalwarming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels — exploration for new oilfieldsmust immediately stop.

 

Even beforethe report, oil companies had slashed investment in risky frontier exploration,fearing oil consumption could peak in the coming decade. But in countries whereoil executives might once have played almost as big a role as ambassadors inmanaging relationships with foreign leaders, their influence is diminishing.Critics once complained of a “revolving door” between governments and oilgroups, with officials taking posts in the industry after leaving public life.

 

Butgovernments no longer want to be seen backing fossil fuel companies overseaswhile pushing a domestic agenda based on renewables, say analysts.

 

In the US —the world’s biggest oil producer and consumer — the Biden administration hasrejoined the Paris agreement, scrapped the Keystone XL oil pipeline andproposed unprecedented investment in clean energy. Internationally, the WhiteHouse has pressed other countries to stop financing coal projects overseas —last month G7 nations pledged to do so by the end of this year — as well asleading the climate summit.

 

“With thechange in administration in Washington, I think we have probably seen thetwilight of the US government’s love affair with oil companies,” said HelimaCroft, a former CIA analyst who runs commodity research at RBC Capital Markets.

 

“Safeguardingaccess to resources used to be seen as an important issue in Washington, but itis less so now with the focus on the energy transition and climate change.”

 

Howeverattempting a global transition to renewables is a complex calculation,observers warn.

 

Big oilcompanies say that while they enjoyed support, they were never reliant on theirgovernments to help them secure access to resources, and they remain welcome inmany countries.

 

But industryfigures argue politicians risk losing global clout by weakening their linkswith domestic oil and gas companies and steering developing countries away fromfossil fuels. The US, for example, should use its own vast hydrocarbonresources to support potential allies that might otherwise rely on suppliesfrom countries such as Russia, they say.

 

“There’s ageopolitical competition with China on right now for economic influence overmany parts of the world,” said a former senior US national security adviser whonow works for a large US oil company and asked to remain anonymous. “The US hasadvantages with its LNG supplies but seems less keen to use them.”

 

JasonBordoff, a former special assistant to Barack Obama and director of the Centeron Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, noted there was still little let-upin global demand for oil.

 

“The IEA roadmap was pretty striking in highlighting what needs to change, but also strikingin saying nothing is changing yet — oil demand is still going up,” Bordoffsaid.

 

The role ofnatural resources in foreign policy would evolve with the energy transition, hesaid. Critical minerals for batteries or access to alternative fuels such ashydrogen meant relationships between big producers of raw materials andgovernments would change rather than vanish. “

 

Even if all ofthe problems of energy geopolitics were resolved by decarbonising, the energytransition is undoubtedly going to create new ones,” he said.

 

In the endhigh level political backing cannot protect oil companies from events. Blairmay have paved the way for BP but its investment in Libya has not borne fruit,with the 2011 civil war and subsequent strife disrupting its plans. In 2018 thecompany sold half its stake in the exploration rights to Italy’s Eni. “

 

There alwayswas an interesting relationship between government and large oil companies butI’ve never been quite sure what way the influence went,” said Professor PaulStevens, distinguished fellow at Chatham House.

 

“But with oilon the way out . . . the companies are fighting a rearguard action and there’snot a lot the government can do for them.”

 

 



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