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Editorial comment

If asked to close your eyes and drift away to a ‘happy place’, you might imagine yourself on a golden, sandy beach, feeling the warmth of the sunshine on your face and soaking up the sound of waves lapping against the seashore. What you might not imagine however, is the reality of a day spent at a seaside town in the UK. Often far from idyllic, with a chill in the air and a strong sea breeze threatening to upturn your deckchair, there is also the distinct possibility of a squawking, feathered friend (or foe) swooping in to steal your chips.

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That’s right, I’m talking about seagulls. Their reputation as ice cream-thieving, nuisance-making fiends has made these birds largely unpopular with human holiday makers. ‘Unpopular’ may even be putting it kindly – after all, the debate on whether these opportunistic creatures should be culled resurfaces year after year. Also not doing the seabirds any favours in the likability stakes is the age-old superstition that gulls flying together overhead is symbolic of impeding death. Let’s face it – any association with the grim reaper isn’t exactly helpful for anyone’s image.

Yet, scientists have recently swooped to their defence. Professor Paul Graham of the University of Sussex explained that the birds’ disruptive and mischievous behaviours are actually a display of intelligence. Since seagulls have been driven out of their natural habitats and into urban areas, they have been forced to adapt, which has meant feasting on whatever food they can salvage from bins and unsuspecting beachgoers alike. Emma Caulfield of The Winter Gull Survey (WinGS) also believes the gulls are no criminals – they are simply “taking advantage of the hand that’s been dealt them.”1 Perhaps then it’s time to cut the birds a beak… I mean break.

Just like the humble seabird, the oil and gas industry hasn’t always won the favour of the general public. Recent years have seen major industry players profiting from soaring energy prices, whilst many households struggled to heat their homes and pay their bills. Aside from this, concerns surrounding the climate crisis continue to grow, as well as fear for its effects on human health and biodiversity.

What often goes unrecognised, however, is that oil majors are some of the key investors in decarbonisation technologies and are enthusiastic in helping to progress the energy transition. BP, for example, is one of the major oil and gas producers branching out into offshore wind, EV charging, and hydrogen technology, as well as investigating means to lower emissions associated with its existing oil and gas facilities. Across its North Sea operations, the company plans to turn to electrification and replacement of gas turbines with cleaner energy forms. 2023 even saw BP’s global annual investment into lower carbon and other transition businesses increase from around 3% in 2019 to 23%.2 And the company is not alone – in 2023, TotalEnergies invested US16.8 billion in low carbon energy,3 whilst Shell plans to invest US$10 –15 billion in low-carbon energy solutions by the end of 2025.4

Like the gull, the industry has had to adapt to a new future. Instead of flying under the radar, perhaps the sector should chirp up about its decarbonisation efforts and energy transition goals, in order to help reshape the way in which it is often perceived.


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