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An earful from Peter Voser

I caught up with Peter Voser, the chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, this week at the IHS Cera annual energy conference in Houston, and he gave me an earful…

March 9, 2012, 4:00 pm

For a Shell Executive, Much Head-Scratching

By CLIFFORD KRAUSS

Europe is generally considered greener than the United States, but its oil executives certainly share American oil executives’ enthusiasm for drilling.

I caught up with Peter Voser, the chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, this week at the IHS Cera annual energy conference in Houston, and he gave me an earful about what he characterized as America’s lack of direction when it comes to having a national energy policy.

Royal Dutch Shell is getting closer to winning approval to drill in Alaska’s Arctic waters after several years’ and more than $4 billion worth of efforts. But for the Swiss-born executive, it is bewildering to watch the Obama administration withhold approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude from oil sands in Canada to refineries on the gulf coast. (Shell is a big investor in the Canadian oil sands.)

Nor does Mr. Voser understand why there is no consensus on embracing the development of natural gas from new shale fields through hydraulic fracturing (Shell is also a global leader in gas production.)

“Alaska is only part of it,” Mr. Voser said. “I am still puzzled that with Canada in the north, with oil sands and Keystone, plus the gas revolution in the United States, plus the Gulf of Mexico successes in exploration, with Alaska coming, the United States is sitting on so many energy resources.”

“I can’t see why there is not more drive,” he said. “It’s puzzling, frustrating. Any other country in the world would jump on this.”

I mentioned to Mr. Voser that the United States has been divided on energy and environmental issues for many years. He nodded when I also mentioned how Theodore Roosevelt had set aside the national parks to shield them from development and was still beloved for having done so.

Still he expressed amazement. “Every week you read of problems in the Middle East, the Chavezes of this world, Mexico’s production is going south, and here you have this huge resource base in this country, and we are discussing, ‘We may drill somewhere here or there’ instead of having a full policy.”

He added, “China’s energy policy is much clearer.”

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