Oil’s Rebound Shows the Window to Protect the Climate Is Closing
A year ago today, oil prices did something never before seen: They dipped into negative territory, meaning suppliers were literally paying people to take the oil off their hands.
It was a shocking moment in a year full of them, as the pandemic drove down demand for the fossil fuels that the world runs on. A year later, oil demand is back, and the world is headed for the second-largest surge in year-over-year carbon pollution ever seen. It’s reflective of the stark reality that, for all that has changed over the past year, we’re still living in a world controlled by fossil fuel interests. But if world leaders squandered a prime moment to intervene in reshaping our relationship with fossil fuels last year, the chance is still there to do the right thing for the climate and workers now.
Oil sat at around $63 per barrel on Wednesday, an almost exactly $100 difference from where it was at this time last year. Demand is bouncing back as vaccination campaigns—at least in many wealthy parts of the world—pick up speed and coronavirus travel restrictions and concerns begin to relax further. In that light, it’s easy to see last year’s nadir for the industry, when bankruptcies, losses, exploration for new oil, and demand all tanked, as a missed opportunity to rein in the industry. But the next best moment is right now.
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