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COMMENTARY:

Shell Oil to Planet Earth: Drop Dead

by Chris Floyd
Friday, 20 March 2009
Green energy, it seems, just doesn't produce enough long green for the Oil Lords.
The Guardian reports on some admirable candor from the paladins at Shell Oil, still raking in gargantuan profits despite the global economic cratering. Shell says it is dropping its much-publicized work on alternative energy sources – because the bucks just aren't big enough. Green energy, it seems, just  doesn't produce enough long green for the Oil Lords. Instead, they are going to keep scraping out carbon from the guts of the earth – and going in for biofuels, i.e., diverting vast acreages of arable land from food production for the world's poor to energy for the world's rich. From the Guardian:

Shell will no longer invest in renewable technologies such as wind, solar and hydro power because they are not economic, the Anglo-Dutch oil company said today. It plans to invest more in biofuels which environmental groups blame for driving up food prices and deforestation....

The company said it would concentrate on developing other cleaner ways of using fossil fuels, such as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. It hoped to use CCS to reduce emissions from Shell's controversial and energy-intensive oil sands projects in northern Canada.

The company said that many alternative technologies did not offer attractive investment opportunities. Linda Cook, Shell's executive director of gas and power, said: "If there aren't investment opportunities which compete with other projects we won't put money into it. We are businessmen and women. If there were renewables [which made money] we would put money into it."

You can't put it much plainer than that. And it's true: the  business of business is to make money, not to pursue social policy or sustain the common good. The latter is what citizens are supposed to do through their political systems -- which is why they aren't allowed to control those systems. But anyway, given this inherent nature of business, it sort of makes you wonder about all those "green entrepreneurs" who believe that the private sector will save us from global warming -- like this worthy gentleman from over Carthage way, who has teamed up with an ex-Goldman Sachs exec to manage billions of dollars in "sustainability-driven" investments.

Yes, Al Gore, like Bono and other world worthies, is in the high-end investment business, seeking to make big money from the global disaster. (The environmental one, not the economic one.) No doubt "Little Al" (as we used to call him around home when he was our kid senator, and when -- full disclosure -- my cousin used to work for him) really would like to see a more balanced earth and all; who wouldn't? But wouldn't it be refreshing if just one of our world-straddling noble crusaders could crusade for their noble causes without also milking it for millions?


Chris Floyd at his deskChris Floyd has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years, working in the United States, Great Britain and Russia for various newspapers, magazines, the U.S. government and Oxford University. Floyd co-founded the blog Empire Burlesque, and is also chief editor of Atlantic Free Press. He can be reached at cfloyd72@gmail.com.

This column is republished here with the permission of the author.



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This story was published on March 20, 2009.