Saturday, May 31, 2008

Liveblogging at API/Newsweek Energy Series (Part VIII)

Throughout the panel discussion, I heard a lot about “the energy problem” and how hard it’s going to be to find and implement solutions. But the “problem” was never actually defined. So later on, when Paul Siegele of Chevron was generous enough to sit down with myself, Tim Hurst of Green Options and Ecopolitology, Brian Westenhaus of and Bonnie Hulkower of Treehugger, (that's Tim and me with Siegele in the photo) I asked him: “What does Chevron see as the biggest energy problem? Global warming? Energy independence? Health? Finite oil supply?”

“All of the above,” he said. “I think the problem is not well defined because it’s so big and the blame is misplaced. People think we’re the ones setting oil prices, for example.”

There's truth to that: While oil companies should certainly be held accountable for safe, responsible business practices, it’s our job as consumers to patronize those companies and products we believe in. It's nearly impossible to avoid buying gas, but we can be as efficient about it as we can. The responsibility is on all of us.

So I asked Siegele how Chevron can assure its shareholders that – with impending carbon dioxide (CO2) regulation – the company is diversifying enough to lessen the blows from any taxes or regulations on CO2. And by the way, does Chevron have a preference of a carbon tax versus a cap-and-trade system? He responded:

“Let’s step back for a minute. With any carbon regulation that may happen, we want to see China and India brought on board. The U.S. can’t solve this problem on its own. So any agreement should include everyone. Also, carbon regulation can’t disproportionately hurt one industry – it has to be fair across the board. We can’t put the economy at risk. That said, a fair cap-and-trade system would be preferable, but again there are a lot of details to be worked out. We’ve got experience with a cap-and-trade system in Europe and we’re involved in the CDM. But leadership really needs to be thoughtful and determine who pays for what.

To diversify, we’re the largest producer of geothermal energy in the world and we’re investing nearly $3 billion in the next three years in renewables like solar power and biofuels.”

API should be getting me some video clips from the event next week, so be sure to check back for those. My fellow bloggers at Green Options, and Treehugger are likely have their takes posted soon, as well.

Photo courtesy of API

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