Big Energy promotes Big Energy at Houston energy conference
Today’s first panel focused on “supply-side solutions” and featured quite a line-up:
- Dana Flanders, President, Chevron Technology Ventures
- James Hackett, Chairman, President, and CEO, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation
- Thad Hill, Executive Vice President and President, NRG Texas
- Robert Kelly, Founding Director, DKRW Energy LLC
- Aubrey McClendon, Chairman of the Board, CEO and Director, Chesapeake Energy Corporation
This being a veritable who’s who of the old energy economy, I was interested to see what they would say when among friends, as it were.
While it started out positive, with Chevron’s Flanders citing efficiency (“a barrel saved is a barrel found”) as the most promising new technology, things went downhill quickly as the discussion turned to the promise of oil shale and other unconventional fossil fuels like tar sands and liquid coal.
For his part, NRG’s Hill repeated the talking points the nuclear industry is aggressively pushing these days. He referred to the nuclear waste issue as “not that big of a problem” and cited politics as the only real obstacle. Somehow I think the people of Nevada might disagree. And despite shockingly serious recent incidents in Japan and here in the U.S. at the Davis Besse facility in Ohio, Hall claims that nukes have had a “phenomenal safety record.”
The most interesting — and perhaps telling — comments came from the head of Anadarko, one of the biggest oil exploration companies in the world. After some platitudes around environmentalism in regards to more drilling, particularly in the Arctic Refuge, he went on the attack.
Apparently, widespread opposition to drilling in the Arctic is based merely on "soundbites" about “snow-capped peaks” from “California environmentalists” (check!) who “control parts of the media” (I wish!). Arctic drilling is “just not that big of a deal” because of the industry’s ability to drill without negative environmental impacts, as demonstrated by its “unblemished record” following the 2005 hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, he added.
(If at least 44 spills following Katrina — “ranging in size from several hundred gallons to nearly 4 million gallons” and equal in size to 2/3 of the oil released from the Exxon Valdez — is not a blemish, I’d hate to know what is.)
The panel ended with some interesting remarks from the CEO of Chesapeake Energy (a natural gas company that is an outspoken foe of coal). As gas prices remain on a seemingly inexorable march toward a new record — with The New York Times reporting this week on $4 gas to come, and the toll high prices are taking on families — McClendon said “it’s not expensive relative to other things” and challenged people to “find [him] a liquid at 7-11 that costs less than gasoline.”