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Saudi Oil Firm Aramco Says Backs Greenhouse Gas Cut

Date: 23-May-06
Country: SAUDI ARABIA
Author: Andrew Hammond

Experts at a first regional conference on technologies to limit greenhouse gases blamed for global warming said winning over Saudi state oil giant Aramco would be a major step forward in convincing governments and industry of their cause.

Negotiators from 163 nations are meeting in Germany this week for talks on extending the UN's Kyoto Protocol on measures to ward off disastrous climate changes such as more heat waves, droughts, floods and rising sea levels.

"I believe the petroleum industry should actively engage in policy debate on climate change as well as play an active role in developing and implementing carbon management technologies to meet future challenges," Saudi Aramco president and CEO, Abdallah Jumah, told the meeting.

"National oil companies -- like Saudi Aramco -- can make meaningful contributions to those efforts," he said.

The oil industry accounts for up to 40 percent of carbon dioxide increase in the atmosphere which scientists believe is the prime cause of global warming, Robert Socolow of Princeton University said on the sidelines of the meeting.

Socolow, who has been at the forefront of research into separating and storing carbon dioxide in the energy industry, said carbon dioxide levels were set to double by 2055 to 14 billion tonnes emitted each year unless action was taken.

As a major business partner with Asian countries, including China, Aramco could set an important example in its efforts to separate and store carbon dioxide, Socolow said.

"Individual oil companies are 'flipping' and this conference shows that Saudi Aramco is 'flipping'," he said, referring to oil producers who have been strong opponents of theories that they are partly responsible for global warming.

"The science is coming through more and more clearly, they are getting pressured," he said, adding that Saudi Arabia was until recently hostile to climate change policy.

Aramco officials said the company had already begun research on removing carbon dioxide given off by oil during shipping in tankers and filling empty oilfields with the unwanted gas instead of salt water.

"We are beginning to see in the oil industry ... some companies making that (reducing carbon emission) part of their strategies," said Adnan Shihab-Eldin, former secretary-general of oil producer cartel OPEC.

"Five years ago, when you spoke of ... climate change there wasn't much of a response. It is important for the future of national oil companies and OPEC that they are promoting development of technology," he added.

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