- Speaking at the ADIPEC oil and gas conference, executives representing global energy majors sought to strike a positive tone on the current state of play for the fossil fuel industry.
- Big Oil, on the back of record profits last year, has been accused of dialing back its climate pledges in recent months.
- “I don’t see where we are today as something that is going to end our industry although there are some out there that want it to go away,” said Vicki Hollub, CEO of U.S. oil and gas producer Oxy.
Chief executives of some of the world’s largest energy companies on Monday sought to defend themselves from criticism, saying it is not possible to keep everyone happy amid the planned energy transition.
Speaking at the ADIPEC oil and gas conference, which opened in Abu Dhabi on Monday, executives representing energy majors in the U.S., Europe and Asia sought to strike a positive tone on the current state of play for the fossil fuel industry.
It comes shortly after climate protesters took to the streets in hundreds of cities across the globe to demand that world leaders phase out the burning of fossil fuels, the chief driver of the climate crisis.
Big Oil has been accused of dialing back its climate pledges in recent months following record annual profits that were described by human rights group Amnesty International as “patently unjustifiable” and “an unmitigated disaster.”
“We’ve got to step up and prepare for the decarbonized systems of the future,” Tengku Muhammad Taufik, president and group CEO of Malaysia’s state energy firm Petronas, said during a CNBC-moderated panel Monday.
“So, the debate has always been posed here, I’m reminded of an old saying: ‘If you want to keep everyone happy, sell ice cream.’ We are not in the business of ice cream — and I’m reminded, there are people who are lactose intolerant,” Taufik said.
“The indication here is we have to make some tough decisions and we have to be bounded by facts, rationality, practical steps but we will get there,” he added.
The biggest challenge that is harder to address than even the innovation around technology is just getting people to trust our industry again.Vicki HollubCEO of Oxy
As had been widely expected, a major U.N. report published last month confirmed that the world is currently not on track to meet the long-term goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, a landmark accord that aims to pursue efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The world has warmed by around 1.1 degrees Celsius after over a century of burning fossil fuels as well as unequal and unsustainable energy and land use. Indeed, it is this temperature increase that is fueling a series of extreme weather events around the world.
Vicki Hollub, CEO of U.S. oil and gas producer Oxy, said these were “really exciting times” for the oil and gas industry and suggested a major challenge for fossil fuel companies was working to regain the trust of society.
“I don’t see where we are today as something that is going to end our industry although there are some out there that want it to go away. As we have done in the past, we will find ways to innovate out of this situation that we’re in,” Hollub said during the same panel discussion.
“In mitigating climate change, there is also the opportunity to continue to produce oil for our energy security. So, we’re trying to work that strategy and I think it is going to work well. The biggest challenge that is harder to address than even the innovation around technology is just getting people to trust our industry again and to understand what the data really says,” she added.
‘It’s the worst of times and it’s the best of times’
Patrick Pouyanne, CEO of French oil giant TotalEnergies, said the oil and gas industry possesses all the tools necessary to be a “major participant” in the energy transition.
“After three or four years, I understood that maybe I was naïve, we will not please the activists. We will never make enough to please the ones which are against oil and gas, but my mission is not to please them,” Pouyanne said.
“Our mission is to deliver to the society the energy we need today and tomorrow and for that I feel comfortable,” he added.
Speaking in January, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned fossil fuel giants for ignoring their own climate science, accusing the oil and gas industry of seeking to expand production despite knowing “full well” that their business model is incompatible with human survival.
Scientists have repeatedly warned that time is rapidly running out to stave off the worst of what the climate crisis has in store.
Reflecting on his position as CEO of British oil giant Shell since the start of the year, Wael Sawan said: “It’s been great, and I think it’s been a rollercoaster. It’s the worst of times and it’s the best of times.”
“The worst of times I think with the recognition it seems to be a time where we continue to polarize the debate more and more rather than actually converge given that we are trying to solve arguably the world’s biggest problem right now,” Sawan continued.
“But it is also the best of times because I do think despite all the negative rhetoric, if you look at what the world has done over the last two to three years and the significant uptick in both low carbon and the conventional energy, it’s been good. We are nowhere close to where we need to be but at the same time, we should not lose hope.”