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Is There a Shell Game Occurring on Renewable Energy?

Bill DiBenedetto headshotWords by Bill DiBenedetto
Energy & Environment
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When the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell talks up the importance of renewable energy as part of the globe’s future power mix, one might wonder what that’s about.

Has Ben van Beurden finally seen the light, powered by things other than fossil fuels? It’s possible he is thinking about the future in a way that’s perhaps more refreshing than simply rhetorical. Or not.

Speaking this month at an OPEC’s 167th meeting in Vienna, van Beurden said traditional energy sources should integrate and work together with clean technologies to provide sustainable and economically-sensible power for the future.

An article in Blue & Green Tomorrow quoted van Beurden as saying,In a world where, as we heard recently, Saudi Arabia has ambitions to become a ‘global power in solar and wind energy’, the vision of a long-term future powered in the main by renewables is one none of us can ignore. It’s also a vision I would encourage all OPEC members to take seriously. Not least because I believe twenty years from now, if we don’t act, global public opinion will be unforgiving.”

He also said the global system is transitioning from coal to a low-carbon model, where natural gas, renewables, and carbon capture and storage play a key role.

According to the International Energy Agency, as the world’s population increases, energy demand will rise by 40 percent, he continued. Meanwhile, the challenges posed by climate change will require a drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. “In essence, we need to provide more energy, with far fewer emissions, [and] to tackle poverty and climate change at the same time,” he said.

Shell is among the major energy firms — in Europe at least — that have called for a strong climate agreement ahead of United Nations talks in Paris later this year. In a letter published in the Financial Times, CEOs of European major energy firms called for an effective carbon pricing system.

Van Beurden also said, “The energy transition is not about one system replacing another. It’s about finding a way of integrating the old and the new systems. The two evolving alongside each other – and complementing each other.

“The final thing we need to do – and by ‘we’ I mean governments, business and civil society – is to learn to work better together.”

But probably, and crucially, without the cooperation of U.S. oil majors, according to a recent Bloomberg article. ExxonMobil and Chevron Corporation put the kibosh on the prospect of joining their European counterparts in forging a common stance on climate change, with ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson saying he doesn’t intend to “fake it.”

Whatever that means. But did you expect anything different from Exxon and Chevron? And are van Beurden’s statements more than, as Hamlet says, “Words, words, words” playing to a largely inattentive audience?

Image credit: Shell Oil Vintage Sign by Karen Blaha via Flickr CC

Bill DiBenedetto headshotBill DiBenedetto

Writer, editor, reader and generally good (okay mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by.

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