Peter Voser, CEO of Shell: energy prices need to go up
Peter Voser, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, spoke about the future of energy (video feed) at an industry event organized by the non-profit Churchill Club on March 21, 2012 at the Burlingame Hyatt. [Disclosure: Both Shell and Churchill Club are clients of Daniel J. Edelman Inc., where I work.]
Having just returned from China, where he had signed an agreement on the behalf of Shell to begin producing shale gas in southwestern China, he began with the traditional Western introduction to the scale of China–the numbers game. Among other statistics, he stated that the global energy demand will rise to double or even triple of its current level, largely due to the growing appetites of emerging economies reaching an extremely energy-intensive stage of their development–early industrialization.
While at least once admitting that he “had to be careful as there [were] investors [there],” Voser was frank and helpful in his responses to questions. And he repeatedly tailored his message to the tech-focused Silicon Valley audience, urging them to assist in the transition to the future of energy by “cutting innovation times” and developing technology on the demand-side.
He also pointed out key spaces “close to [his] heart” that will require more innovation in an increasingly resource-constrained future: water and food. “There are countries in the Middle East” Voser stated, “where two-thirds of their energy consumption is for desalination.” Again, prodding his tech-focused audience, “we need a new technology” for water harvesting.
He did not hesitate to criticize the oil industry for the frequency of its devastating accidents. In reference to a question about the Exxon Valdez spill, he stated, “it’s about prevention.”
In response to a question asked by Felicity Carus of AOL Energy about the high greenhouse gas emissions of Shell refineries, he said that Shell supports a global cap and trade system, and will not wait for the institution of this system to establish its own company-wide system.
Later, Voser began to speak on the of lack of transparency about water pollution resulting from the growth of shale natural gas in the US. Suggesting that this obfuscation hurt the industry, he stated that “we need to be better at being transparent about water seismic issues and present them to the public early in the game.”
To summarize Peter Voser encouraged Silicon Valley technologists to develop solutions in these spaces:
- improve scalability time (from the current 30 years)
- find a tool for energy storage
- improve upon desalination to deliver water to water-scarce places
I was impressed when he voiced something many are unwilling to say. “Energy prices need to go up,” he assured the crowd, there will be “no change without political will.”
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or clients.