Energy execs’ tone on climate changing, but they still see a long fossil future

(Inside Climate News, 18 Mar 2019) The contradiction was evident at a major energy conference as some oil executives talked of a need to reinvent the industry as the world turns to cleaner energy.

A weeklong energy industry conference that came to a close on Friday revealed an oil and gas industry in the midst of a working contradiction.

In speeches that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago, executives from some of the world's largest oil companies said the future is low-carbon and the industry needs to reinvent itself or risk becoming irrelevant as the world turns to cleaner energy.

Yet at the same time, their peers talked about a future where oil and gas demand would remain strong for decades. They spoke of natural gas not as a bridge to some fossil-fuel-free world but as a "forever fuel."

The public debate highlighted the gap between a stated desire to become part of a climate solution and the reality of a booming oil and gas industry that remains the biggest part of the greenhouse gas problem.

The CERAWeek conference, hosted by the research and analysis firm IHS Markit, occupied the entire Hilton Americas hotel in downtown Houston, where $8,500 tickets bought thousands of executives, financiers and analysts access to the industry and an unending supply of food, drink and, in one tech-focused display, espresso served by a robotic arm.

Maarten Wetselaar, a Royal Dutch Shell executive, spoke on one of the first panels about "Fuels of the Future." Shell has presented perhaps the most expansive vision of how the industry might change, and Wetselaar described a company that, a few decades from now, will service an electrified, hydrogen- and bio-fueled vehicle market and provide natural gas for heavy transportation. To meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement, he said, electricity may be the only energy consumers buy within 20 years, although he said natural gas will still fuel ships and heavy transportation.

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Inside Climate News, 18 Mar 2019: Energy execs’ tone on climate changing, but they still see a long fossil future