Kayaktivists vs. Big Oil

On September 5th, a flotilla of kayakers, sailboats and the world-famous Rainbow Warrior buoyed on the climate’s behalf against oil refinery Preem’s planned expansion along the idyllic Swedish west coast.

The petroleum company Preem plans to expand its refinery facilities in Lysekil, located on the Swedish west coast. The expansion, if approved by the Swedish government, would increase CO2 emissions by one million tonnes per year, making the refinery the single largest source of CO2 in the country. To campaigners, the choice is clear: people over oil, Paris over Preem.

In its defence, the company says the expansion is needed in order to convert high-sulphur heavy oil into sulphur-free petrol and diesel in accordance with new environmental regulations. They maintain that an expansion will make it possible to produce higher quality products while sourcing renewable fuels – more than compensating for the increase in carbon dioxide emissions. Their plan is to have half of the emitted CO2 captured and stored with so-called Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology, eventually phasing out fossil fuels.

Organizers at Greenpeace Sweden, in coalition with several national environmental organizations, warn that the plans prioritize short-term profit over long-term climate stability. If Preem expands, they argue, Sweden will be unable to reach its national emissions targets and its commitments to the Paris agreement. Legal experts say that this is the first case in which greenhouse gas emissions may make the difference between an actor receiving a permit or not, even if the activity is included in the EU’s emissions trading system.

SUSTON
jonathan.eidse@norragency.com