Guess it’s not cartoon, Food Network and UFO Hunters night at Casa M&D. Bush’s War on PBS Frontline is over. On to John Hofmeister, recently-retired president of Shell Oil, on Charlie Rose.
Right off the bat, Hofmeister expressed two sentiments that strike me as surprising/refreshing coming out of the mouth of an oil company executive: America has not made oil parsimony a matter of national pride. Additionally, it is the responsibility of federal, state and local governments to slap tariffs on energy abusers. As for the latter comment, let me assure you how thrilled I am not discovering hydrocarbon reservoirs that will fuel, for example, single-driver Hummers and F-350s that have never been off-road, much less over a pebble.
The rest of the program is a predictable dance; Charlie Rose conducts the interview from the perspective of the concerned environmentalist, while Hofmeister is an experienced oil-company spokesman. Following are interesting comments to ponder:
– Hofmeister points out that, in terms of positioning Shell for the future, Shell is very much an oil company, but underpinning this is a technology company, which makes 1, 5, 10, 25, 100 year outlooks. True that, I could write volumes about Shell’s and Chevron’s technological wealth, which resides mainly in the heads of their scientists and engineers. A real tragedy is that hiring did not keep up during the oil bust of the late 1980s and many of these folks will reach retirement age in the next few years. Oil companies’ intellectual assets have already begun to leave taking all that brilliance with them. Along with universities graduating increasingly less petroleum technologists, you could say that the oil industry faces a minor resourcing crunch.
– “Americans use 10,000 gallons of oil per second, not a minute, a second.”
– I’ve noticed that a number of disparate folks, from Herr Doktor Brother to Shell executives, place an immense amount of faith in nanotechnology as the wave of the future, as soon as ten years from now.
– “Politics is the root of the lack of progress. And the image of the oil industry has not helped.” This statement led into the need for a national energy security policy. Immediately, I questioned if this is a policy that involves oil exclusively.
– “We’re not climatologists, but action is needed [on global warming].”
– “We’re for reducing emissions by increasing miles per gallon [through hybrid vehicles, hydrogen cells, etc.]”
As an oil industry geophysicist, the solution as I see it is not in world governments making laws and in Shell and other oil companies enacting resolutions and initiating research for a less-hydrocarbon-dependent future. While these are good first steps, the real answer lies in the combination of consumer ownership of the problem, unfettered research and law enforcement.