It has become a familiar scene at major oil company annual meetings. Protesters, some of whom have purchased token amounts of stock to appear, confound the proceedings by asking oil companies to exit their business in the name of the environment.
According to this fringe, oil companies have a responsibility to protect the planet from the scourge of fossil fuels. Oil companies are portrayed as pushing their product while the planet overheats.
This black-and-white view of energy policy puts the global warming issue into a moral context. It assumes everyone who believes in catastrophic climate-change theory is good, and those who don’t are bad. It also asserts that replacing fossil fuels will make the world better and “sustainable.”
How wrong! Oil, gas, and coal are increasingly abundant, clean and consumer-friendly. Real climate is refuting warmist climate models. Fossil fuels are becoming more sustainable, not less, in the vernacular of environmental science.
The moral imperative is to deliver the best energies. To go in the opposite direction would create hardship for millions of families worldwide.
CEOs Rex Tillerson of ExxonMobil and John Watson of Chevron were cognizant of this fact when they explained the importance of balanced energy policy at their recent annual meetings. They offered reason in the face of ecological zealotry.
Tillerson urged continued oil and gas development to support a growing world population. He demoted scary climate models as “not competent.” He dismissed wind, solar and biofuels as wanting. He asked his critics: “How do you want to deal with that great social challenge to what good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers in the process of those efforts when you don’t know exactly what your impacts are going to be?”
Watson said an effective energy policy must balance energy availability and cost and environmental considerations. While “some progress on carbon emissions” can be made, “it’s going to take a lot longer than people think.”
Rather than subsidizing today’s alternative energy resources, Watson called for economical efficiency gains and investments in breakthrough technologies. He noted that subsidizing wind, solar and other alternatives has “raised the cost of energy for consumers.”
This brings the discussion to Obama energy policy. If his policy was centered on consumer welfare rather than ideology, his administration would approve rather than delay construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, for example. The privately funded $5.3 billion project would create thousands of jobs and deliver more than 800,000 barrels of Canadian oil per day to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast, providing the feedstock for the fuels and products essential to the U.S. economy and American families.
With political energy and leadership failing, it is refreshing to see leaders of global energy companies defend their moral right and financial opportunity to serve consumers with affordable, reliable energies. Energy education is well served — and corporate responsibility enhanced — by debunking the tired arguments of climate alarmism and rejecting government energy planning.
Bradley is CEO of the Institute for Energy Research.