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Globe & Mail: What me? Stop working? Clive Mather may be coming out of Shell Canada, but don’t call it retiring

From Friday’s Globe and Mail
August 31, 2007 at 7:00 AM EDT

After three decades working for Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Clive Mather arrived in Calgary as the new CEO of Shell Canada in 2004. He quickly okayed a $12.8-billion expansion of Shell’s oil sands facilities and bought BlackRock Ventures Inc. for $2.4 billion. But Mather also called for action on global warming. In June, at age 59, he stepped down and returned to Surrey in England after Royal Dutch Shell bought the 22% of Shell Canada it didn’t already own for $8.7 billion.

You’re a young retiree. What’s next?
I think work is great fun. Who on earth would want to stop working? I am retiring from Shell but I’m not retiring. My grandfather farmed in Oxfordshire, in central England, until he was 94. I have a huge energy source inside me that will not be bottled up.

Any ideas? Canada, England, elsewhere?
I’m talking to people, particularly about how I can stay connected with Canada. I think you’ll see me back here—but in different roles, and I shall not be doing oil and gas. I’m interested in trade issues and environmental issues and things that would help the country in the longer term.

Are you pleased that your peers in the industry are now taking global warming more seriously?
I derive enormous satisfaction from all we’ve done here, and that’s been a big part of it—but not the only part. I’m thrilled about what we’ve achieved over the last few years in terms of our growth and our profitability and, yes, I do care deeply about climate change and the responsibility we all bear. We may not know or understand all of the science, but the impact is pretty clear.

But did you feel guilty speaking out while also running a big oil company?
Hydrocarbons have been a wonderful energy source for the world. Our modern civilization has been built upon them. My message on all this is, we’re in it together. We’ve enjoyed the benefits, but now we have to live up to the consequences. I like to think that this industry, which has been so successful in developing cheap, reliable and safe energy, will also be part of the solution.

What qualities got you to the top ranks of the oil industry?
I have always been ambitious. I will be absolutely honest: I’ve always wanted this job. I always thought that the CEO of Shell Canada was the best job in Shell—and I still do. On the way, of course, you have to evidence some expertise, some performance, and frankly, you have to benefit from a bit of good luck.

The best job in Shell?
First of all, this is a wonderful country. Second, Shell is an integrated energy company, and that makes for enormous fun. We literally go from the mine to the motorist, or from the well to the wheels, as we say. The third reason is that I was running a public company, so you had the competitive challenge of a share price and the marketplace—and that turns me on. I’m a competitive animal. I like to have that test every day of how the stock is doing.

You’ve worked throughout the world. What was your favourite country?
They’re all different. I lived in Borneo, which is tropical rain forest, so you can’t get more different than Alberta. But it’s glorious, in its own way. South Africa was fantastic—terrific political challenges, but a beautiful country, too. And my own country, England, which you could fit into Alberta many times, is wonderful. It’s green and pleasant and civilized. But I think the scale and splendour of Canada is particularly inspiring.

Any regrets?
My big regret is that the Flames didn’t make the Stanley Cup final this year. I’ve become a big fan. I must say that a night out at the Saddledome is one hell of a good night.

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