February 13, 2015

Unlikely Friendships: Solar and Big Oil Make Amends?

I’m sure everyone in the Santa Clarita Valley who doesn’t drive a purely electric vehicle has noticed the recent drop in the price of oil. After years of skyrocketing gas prices, the cost of your commute is finally coming down. Why is that?

According to the latest American Petroleum Institute (API) report, the United States is now the world’s largest natural gas producer, the leading petroleum refiner, and we are about to become the number one producer of oil in the world (1).

This is very good news for non-electric vehicle drivers and for big oil. One might think these results would decrease the urgency and necessity for solar and other sources of alternative energy. But this may not be true. Even the API seems to be embracing alternative energy as they included alternative energy industries in their 2014 annual report.

When questioned about this newfound inclusiveness API CEO, Jack Gerard, responded stating, “The U.S. is in the midst of a new era in domestic energy abundance characterized by rising use of renewable energy and increased oil and natural gas production that is strengthening our economic outlook and enabling America to emerge as a global energy superpower...” (1).

These are not just the placating words of a CEO trying to create a better public image. The API is putting their CEO’s words into action. Teaming up with such groups as the American Wind Energy Association and SEIA (Solar Energy Industry Association), the API lobbied for alternative energy-friendly policy change on Capitol Hill (1). This is an incredible change of heart for big oil (2).

SEIA also considers this collaboration a watershed moment. “We see it as a clear recognition by the oil and gas industry that solar is now a mainstream energy source and an important part of America’s energy future,” said Johnson, SEIA’s VP of communications. “To its credit, API understands the need for our nation to have a balanced and growing energy portfolio,...and we believe that any meaningful ‘all-of-the-above’ energy approach needs to embrace the importance of renewable energy sources, including solar” (1).

Though this new alliance seems to make little sense, solar and oil aren’t in direct competition at the current moment. Oil still primary powers transportation while solar primarily powers homes (1). It seems that solar and oil won’t be at odds until the majority of Americans choose to power their cars, trains and planes with electricity instead of gasoline.

But, this switch might occur sooner than the API expects. Everyday more and more Teslas can be seen speeding up and down Newhall Ranch road. More and more of our Santa Clarita Valley neighbors are putting enough solar panels on their roofs to not only power their homes but also their electric vehicles. This constant growth of solar tech adoption could mean this oil-solar partnership won’t last very long. But, only time will tell.


(1) http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/oil-industry-joins-hands-with-solar-in-new-annual-report

(2) http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/jack-gerard-the-force-majeure-behind-big-oil/2012/04/06/gIQA1hjC0S_story.html


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