Exxon says New Energy Technologies are Urgent Priority

Governments must “realistically appraise and address the barriers to renewables,” but then undertake research on fuel cells, clean coal and carbon storage, according to the executive vice president of Exxon Mobil Corp.

LONDON, England, UK, 2001-11-16 [SolarAccess.com] “It is absurd to say, as some do, that lack of investment in renewables means an unwillingness to take significant steps to improve the environmental performance of our operations or to address the concerns associated with climate change,” Rene Dahan told an oil conference in Britain. “The renewable industry does not suffer from a lack of investments.” “What it will suffer from is the absence of significant breakthrough advances to close the economic gap with competing energy forms,” he adds. “This will come from research, not from manufacturing investments.” Governments should use incentives and other actions to raise energy efficiency in all sectors of the economy, and he called for the promotion of carbon sequestration through forest and agricultural practices. Using technology to raise the efficiency of power generating plants in China and India to the current average level in the United States and Europe would reduce CO2 emissions by 2010 by more one billion tons per year, or one and a half times the reduction called for under the Kyoto Protocol in nations other than the U.S. In a speech that was a response to accusations that ExxonMobil is not promoting renewable energy solutions, Dahan says governments must appraise the barriers to wind and solar energy, using technology and policy tools to increase the potential role of renewables as well as nuclear energy. It is most important that research be undertaken on long-term technologies such as fuel cells, clean coal and CO2 storage that are capable of “significantly improving the energy efficiency of the world economies” and reducing the GHG emissions “without giving up economic prosperity.” “We need to remember that those new technologies do not exist today and yet they represent the only, I repeat, the only effective long term response to potential climate change,” says Dahan. “The need to urgently move on this priority is not sufficiently recognized.” “As for our own approach to renewables, we currently believe that, having spent half a billion dollars to find out, we can better serve society’s near and medium-term needs, by focusing on R&D work on how to reduce the environmental impacts of oil and gas use,” he explains. “Some people criticize us for that, but the focus derives from a business decision, not an ideological decision. If the market reality changes and we conclude we can make good sound investments in the renewables arena, we may be there again.” ExxonMobil spends US$600 million a year in research, of which $120 million is focused on advanced technologies. He says some of the company’s top scientists and engineers are working on new business opportunities, such as the fuel cell program with GM and Toyota. “Our philosophy is not to pick winners and decry all other options,” he says. “Part of the strength of a competitive global business environment is that we all place bets on what the future will look like, with society the ultimate winner. We believe that in the future, a variety of energy solutions will meet people’s needs.”
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