Oil industry 'broadly misunderstood' - ExxonMobil

13 February 2007 22:33  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--The global energy industry is "broadly misunderstood" and needs to broadcast that oil and natural gas will play more - not less - of a role in future economic development, ExxonMobil head Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday.

"We are responsible for many of the products that define modern life - from transportation, to heating and electricity generation, to the plastics that go into products ranging from medical equipment to children’s toys," said Tillerson, the company's chairman and chief executive.

"[But] the realities and challenges we face in delivering energy are broadly misunderstood by those whom we serve," he said. "We must better explain these realities."

Tillerson was speaking at an annual conference in Houston organised by Cambridge Energy Research Associates. The event, known as CERA Week, brings together senior executives and policymakers from around the world.

ExxonMobil is a prominent target for critics of the energy industry, both because it is the biggest oil company in the world and because it has lagged other majors in its acceptance of theories of global warming.

Tillerson took aim at suggestions that the energy industry needs to be reined in through taxation, saying that policymakers do not understand the long timeframes needed for energy investment.

"Measures, for example, that seek to impose additional taxes on the industry or increase governments’ take in light of recent high prices will likely have the consequence of impeding investments needed for new, more diverse sources of supplies to meet demand 10 or 15 years from now," he said. 

Likewise, environmental activists must accept that modern technology allows oil and natural gas to be extracted with a minimal impact, he said. This applies to the US in particular, where an estimated 31bn bbl of recoverable oil and 105trn cubic feet of natural gas are currently ruled off-limits, he said.

"On this issue, we seem to be stuck in a time warp of the 1960s," Tillerson said. "It is time the public debate on access in this country move forward."

While maintaining that uncertainties still exist in theories about global warming, Tillerson acknowledged that it is "prudent to develop and implement sensible strategies that address these risks" while not reducing progress in other priorities such as economic development.
By: Stephen Burns
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