Energy Efficiency

Three Quick Questions With John Hofmeister: How To Boost Energy Investment

Hofmeister is the former president, Shell Oil Company and Chief Executive, Citizens for Affordable Energy.

By Sarin Kouyoumdjian-Gurunlian, marcus evans press manager

1. How can we ensure affordable and available energy for the future?

This starts with public awareness and education. It is critical that energy companies get public support for the changes and investments that are possible in the sector, because governments follow public sentiment. They are passive reactive. If the public fears the risks associated with energy investment, it will protest, and the government response will reflect that sentiment. This just brings everything to a standstill.

Secondly, government awareness is also needed, for what is required over the short and long term, to support all energy needs and build out the systems of the 21st century.

Thirdly, the industry has to prove its case and demonstrate it knows how to manage risk. This requires a level of transparency from them, increased engagement and preparedness for increased scrutiny.

The winning formula is the combination of public awareness, government awareness and industry engagement. That is how energy companies will be able to invest in the ways they need to.

The demand for energy will only increase, so we need to figure out how to make it happen and not how to prevent it. This kind of spending stimulates economies, creates jobs and generates revenue for governments. When we hold back energy investment, we are our own worst enemy.

2. What key messages could you share from your book, "Why We Hate the Oil Companies: Straight talk from an energy insider"?

We are all part of this process, because we are all consumers. Energy producers need to look at consumers differently, and realize they need to satisfy the end consumer. It is not an internal business in and of itself. There has to be more outreach, engagement, explanation and scrutiny for there to be better relationships. There is no reason why it cannot happen.

The reason why we hate oil companies is because we do not know what they do and how they do it. They are too inwardly focused, which is the wrong approach to have. Energy companies should be forthcoming and engaging as a matter of good practice. We will all be better off if we have a much better set of relationships.

3. What energy solutions could the industry capitalize on today?

In the near term, we have to keep doing what we are doing to keep the world supplied with energy.

As oil becomes more difficult and costly to obtain, the opportunity to shift to natural gas for transportation fuel production is here and now. Three out of the five ways of using natural gas are suitable for trucks, trains and ships. That could occupy us for the next 20-40 years. In the meantime, the R&D needed for renewable energy needs to move forward. We are not there yet on wind, solar and biofuels. Third, it would be wrong to give up on coal, as it will continue to play an important part of the future, so we must expand on the technologies to clean it. Fourth, nuclear still has great promise because it is so efficient, but we could look into alternative fuel sources such as thorium, to give nuclear a new life.

Hofmeister will speak at the marcus evans Petrochemical & Refining Summit 2013, in Austin, Texas, July 15-16.

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