Oil and gas will remain the dominant fuel source for decades to come, the industry’s top executives declared on Wednesday, making their case not to be under valued as governments seek to reduce fossil fuels to address climate worries.
Executives offered a full-throated defense of the industry, describing government opposition to new projects as harming society and using this week’s World Petroleum Congress in Houston to rebut the industry’s harsh portrayal at the UN COP26 climate conference.
Any effort to bar new development “is misguided” and likely to hurt poorer nations, said OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo. Oil and gas also “can be part of the solution to tackling climate change.”
Jim Teague, co-chief executive of energy pipeline operator Enterprise Products Partners, hit at talk of reimposing a ban on U.S. oil exports. Such proposals ignore there are “people that want a better quality of life, and they don’t really give a damn about climate change,” said Teague.
Carbon emissions and developing cleaner fuels were prominent on the agenda, however. Exxon Mobil Corp and Pioneer Natural Resources pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions from their shale output. Peru also laid out its plan to hold an auction for renewable energy projects.
Oil refiners that supply motor fuels also are moving to develop more biodiesel from plant and animal byproducts. Future refineries “will be more modular,” said Ethan Phillips, a partner with consultancy Bain & Co.
Executives largely steered clear of discussions of emissions from the use of their products, called Scope 3. ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance described the largest U.S. independent oil producer’s approach as focusing on the emissions “we create as a business.”
Several executives, including those who have sharply cut spending on new fossil fuel projects, lamented the lack of investment in new oil and gas projects.
They pointed to the soaring prices in Europe and Asia for gas and power as evidence of how a too-rapid embrace of solar, wind and other renewables can harm consumers and disrupt energy supplies.
Developing countries cannot afford to allow the energy transtion to raise energy prices, said Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras executive Roberto Ardenghy.
“We have to be careful not to create energy inequality,” he cautioned. “We have to be pragmatic.”
Industry advocates said energy consumers can make their own decisions on fuels and how to cut carbon emissions.
“For consumers, it is ultimately about choice,” said Frank J. Macchiarola, an official with trade group the American Petroleum Institute.