After a very public campaign to promote renewable energy, BP is inaugurating Earth Day as a markedly less "green" company — highlighting how certain business realities have run headlong into the once lofty expectations surrounding alternative energy.
In early April, Europe's second-largest energy company quietly announced that it was divesting of its wind power assets, part of what the company referred to as BP's "continuing effort to become a more focused oil and gas company and re-position the company for sustainable growth into the future." The decision followed BP's 2011 exit from solar power after 40 years in the business.
Still, Mark Finley, general manager of BP's Global Energy Markets and US economics, said the company still has alternative energy bonafides to burnish. In an e-mailed response to questions from CNBC, he touted the company's involvement in biofuels and ethanol. He expects renewable energy to continue to grow in importance for company in the decades to come.
"Alternative and renewable energies will be an important part of the energy mix moving forward, though the scale to which they contribute may grow at a slower pace than some predicted a few years ago," Finley said.
In its most recent assessment of the global energy market, called the Energy Outlook, BP frankly acknowledged the growing importance of oil and shale gas development. The company said both segments would account for "almost a fifth of the increase in global energy supply to 2030."
In many ways, BP's retreat from solar and wind power reflects how alternative energy – despite making strides globally – has lost some of its clout as major economies move to exploit fossil fuels.