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Why Shell Oil is staying in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership

By MARVIN ODUM

Houston Chronicle: March 9, 2010, 9:26PM

Today, Washington is having the wrong energy and climate debate, and the future of the U.S. economy may be the biggest casualty.

Rather than developing sensible legislation that creates a viable market for low-emission energy while developing more of our own oil and gas resources, Washington is engaged in a snowball fight over the science of global warming. Meanwhile, other countries are quietly going about building the vast infrastructure necessary to win the real fight — the one that will determine who will lead the new, clean-energy economy.

Recent news reports concerning the withdrawal of three companies from the U.S. Climate Action Partnership have been cited as evidence that energy and climate legislation is stalled. If anything, these decisions indicate that we are closer to, not further from, enacting climate and energy legislation because difficult choices are being made about the best way to achieve legislation. The fact is, USCAP members continue to demonstrate a solid commitment to addressing the nation’s climate and energy challenge through strong cooperation among businesses, environmental organizations and policymakers.

So why has Shell Oil Co. remained an active member of this important organization? Consider that by 2050 the world’s population will increase 50 percent to 9 billion people and 98 percent of that growth will occur in what today are considered developing countries. In only 15 years’ time, about two-thirds of the world’s economic activity will be in these developing countries. Citizens there will naturally want the same standard of living we enjoy today — and this will create an enormous demand for energy.

For Shell, the scale of our activities puts us on the front line of the global energy challenge. Shell operates in more than 100 countries, producing more that 3 million barrels of oil and gas every day. Worldwide, there are some 45,000 Shell service stations, selling transportation fuels to some 10 million customers a day. And we run more than 25 major refineries and chemical plants around the globe.

Our belief is shared by many, that in the coming decades all countries must find more energy at a much-reduced cost to the environment as we transition to a low-emission fuels economy. That transition will take time — decades. In the interim, a leading option is to expand access to oil and natural gas. Together these sources meet 60 percent of U.S. needs because they are reliable and abundant and technology has allowed new and innovative ways to lessen the environmental footprint of oil and gas operations.

Natural gas, in particular, will play an important role. It is the fastest-growing and cleanest-burning fossil fuel, and some estimates say the U.S. contains enough natural gas resources to meet current demand into the next century. Shell and others are advancing technologies to safely access and develop these supplies. Enabling reasonable and environmentally sensitive access to these resources would strengthen U.S. energy security by making more domestic supply available to American consumers. It would also support the creation of American jobs and strengthen our economy while allowing research to continue on exciting new forms of energy, including biofuels and other alternative sources of energy.

What does this mean for the United States? By working together, stakeholders, both individually and through organizations like USCAP, can set the course for comprehensive energy and environmental legislation that puts us on a path to a secure and sustainable energy future.

It is easy to call for this kind of unified action. Delivering on-the-ground progress is a lot tougher. One thing is clear, though: Without cooperation across party boundaries and ideological divides, we run the risk of finishing the race for responsible energy and environmental legislation behind the pack.

And if there is one thing we all can agree on, it is that America cannot afford to receive the bronze medal in the race for our energy future.

Odum is president of Shell Oil Co.

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