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Oil Ought to Give Clean Energy a Shot

by:Wingoil     2020-10-23
For the past couple of years, I've been imagining this scenario: What if an oil company ventured big time into solar, wind, biofuels, hydrogen and wave energy? Imagine the public goodwill such a move would engender. It also offers strategic investment diversity. Communications teams could play up the green angle, talk up the environmental benefits and start referring to their employer as a full-spectrum energy company. The ex-journalists in the press office could start firing off straight-forward missives. Something like: 'We support clean energy but realize we must pursue a balanced approach. Oil will be with us for generations, but we must use it wisely, taking advantage of energy efficiency and renewables whenever possible.' Is it far-fetched? Certainly. But who better? BP had 2011 third quarter earnings of $5.33 billion, a decline of 3.7 percent from the previous year. Royal Dutch Shell earned $7 billion in the same period, double from a year earlier. And Chevron topped them both with $7.8 billion, more than double from a year earlier. A Chevron allocation of half its earnings to solar and wind would rock Wall Street. Oil for renewables Clean energy won't happen by itself. Like many of the up-and-coming energy sources that came before, it needs favorable government policy, investment and dedicated research and development. The oil industry can relate. Heck, listen to any politician talk about curtailing regulation and opening up opportunity for exploratory drilling or shale oil extraction. 'Everybody needs a little help,' or so says the grime-encrusted sign the homeless guy holds up near the mall. The oil industry could easily reframe the good science/bad science debate regarding climate change now raging in political circles. Major investment into solar like the deal by Google and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts to buy four photovoltaic power plants near Sacramento from Recurrent Energy could make a substantive dent. It's unlikely. Probably too risky. Oil industry types like to stick to a business model with a certain payoff. Soviet-era parable Big Oil's unwillingness to bend reminds me of a parable I heard in the former Soviet Union a couple years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
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