Loss of public confidence is the biggest problem facing fossil companies, Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden told a gathering of oil and gas executives during the CERAWeek conference in Houston last week.
With public faith in the industry “just disappearing”, van Beurden unveiled US$1 billion in new renewable energy investment—in a week when his company announced that it was selling off most of its holdings in the Alberta tar sands/oil sands, and shut down development of a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Prince Rupert, B.C.
“If we’re not very careful, with all the good intentions and advocacy that we have, we may, as a sector and society, not make the progress that is needed,” van Beurden said. “I do think trust has been eroded to the point that it is becoming a serious issue for our long-term future.”
He described the loss of “broader public support for the sector” as “the biggest challenge we have at the moment as a company…the fact that societal acceptance of the energy system as we have it is just disappearing.”
The Independent notes that Shell’s new renewable energy investment, which takes effect by 2020, “still only represents a small part of its total annual spending of $25 billion.”