Russia and US Feud Over Who's the Dirtiest

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Just before a US-Russia summit meeting in Geneva on Jun. 16, the two heavyweight energy producers have been taking aim at the environmental credentials of each other's oil and gas industries. In a keynote address to the recent St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin urged the world to reject "environmentally unfriendly" oil, including US shale oil. Sechin noted that some two-thirds of US crude oil comes from shale formations, which require the drilling of multiple wells and hydraulic fracturing to make the oil flow. This consumes large quantities of diesel fuel for the rigs, water for the fracking, and large quantities of unwanted natural gas are often flared, too (OD May21'21). "One can ask in this respect, whose oil is cleaner in reality?" Sechin asked, going on to suggest that "we should talk not about walking away from oil as such, but about walking away from oil from ecologically dirty projects." Just over a week earlier, US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm accused Russia of exporting the "dirtiest form of natural gas on Earth" -- a claim she appeared to base on the volume of gas that Russia flares. The World Bank-led Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR) does indeed rank Russia as the world's top gas flarer, but the US has little to brag about, following in fourth place (IOD Apr.28'21) Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak responded by noting the relatively high carbon footprint of US LNG exports, which require intensive drilling, liquefaction of the gas, shipping it in refrigerated tankers and regasification once the gas reaches its destination. Novak also noted the relatively low carbon footprint of Russian oil production, compared to the US and other countries. President Vladimir Putin also spoke in defense of Russian oil and gas in St. Petersburg last week. "Our source [of gas] is the cleanest in the world," he said, contrasting Russian gas with US shale gas extraction, which he described as "catastrophic" and "barbaric." Putin did acknowledge that Russia also uses fracking, but said this accounts for only 11% of major producer Gazprom's output. Sechin said Russian oil production relies far less heavily on fracking than US oil producion and that Russian regulations require the utilization of 95% of the associated gas that comes from oil production. Nelli Sharushkina, Moscow

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