Oil’s dominance is far from over, ExxonMobil chairman claims

The chairman of one of the world's most powerful oil companies has denied claims that the era of the oil industry's global dominance is coming to an end, saying that the world will depend on oil and natural gas for the foreseeable future.

ExxonMobil Chairman, Lee Raymond, told a meeting at the Institute of Petroleum in London that oil and natural gas will continue to be the world’s main energy sources, barring a major technological breakthrough (see related story).

Raymond said that technological advances – such as the use of satellites and computers in oil exploration and the production of more efficient lubricants – mean that oil use today is much higher than had been forecast and is predicted to rise. Raymond cited the International Energy Agency, which 15 years ago projected free world oil usage of 54 million barrels a day. The actual amount, Raymond said, will be about 67 million barrels a day this year – 25% higher than predicted.

“And looking into the future, we see oil consumption in 2020 being some 50 percent higher than was forecast 15 years ago,” declared Raymond. “Natural gas consumption is expected to grow even more rapidly with coal and nuclear having much lower shares of the energy mix than was predicted in 1985.”

Raymond also dismissed the contribution of renewable energy sources will have to meeting future energy demands. “Renewables like wind, solar, and biomass can be players only in niche markets where they don’t have to compete with abundant, clean-burning, affordable and efficient fossil fuels,” Raymond said.

“Photovoltaics appear to have potential, but costs must be reduced

significantly and performance dramatically improved to be competitive,” Raymond added. “It would take a dramatic breakthrough in technology.

“Nor do we expect battery and fuel cell cars to become dominant in the next 20 years if the free market is left to decide. No one with today’s technology has produced a battery with anything close to acceptable performance for wide-scale use. And as for fuel cells using hydrogen, safety remains a serious, unresolved issue as does the lack of infrastructure,” Raymond said.

Raymond claimed the oil industry can help provide both economic progress and a safe environment, arguing that the industry’s “few failures” get the headlines because they are the exception, not the rule. “We want and strive for clean air, soil and water for our children, our grandchildren and ourselves,” he said.

Raymond even compared the oil industries’ aims with those of environmentalists, claiming that ExxonMobil has studied climate change for nearly two decades. “ExxonMobil and its competitors want the same thing as responsible environmentalists – because we are responsible environmentalists. And we have a great, unacknowledged environmental record to prove it. ExxonMobil has studied climate change for nearly two decades, since well before it became as broadly discussed as it is today. ExxonMobil recognises the potential for climate change caused by elevated levels of CO2 in the atmosphere is a legitimate concern and reducing the scientific uncertainties is important.”

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie