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2017
Asia Needs more Dialogue
Solutions to urban pollution may prove complex
Spread of ESGs could herald new global movement
Investing in quality education is imperative if India wants to reap demographic dividends
China needs to lead in new multi-stakeholder world
China’s B&R initiative leading a resurgence of Asia
Education is key - but long-term: Can we survive?
New wave of robots will be beneficial to all
China needs to continue with its ‘heavy lifting’
Time is right for Chinese firms to invest in Europe
Robots to the rescue for China?
Asian Multinationals are Going Global, But to Where?
China ratchets forward with energy efforts
China’s calm necessary for globalization push
Bridging managerial gaps involves trust-building
China well-placed to power its future through green technology advances
China's new 'springtime' is here
2016
China’s moves show it’s banking on the future
Mindset for action at the G20 summit will be determined by Chinese presidency
Chinese head-hunting intensifies for rare managers that can steer overseas firms
US talk of isolation jars with growing links in Europe and Asia
Electoral rhetoric on global trade not in sync with reality
Is it time to be prudent and consider austerity policies again?
What will we do if we have no oil?
Unlock talent by finding the right fit for a person
The benefits are real and tangible
Trade along China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ won’t succeed without the currency of trust
Reasons for optimism about the long term
2015
Can big oil go green and win?
Poorer Nations Could Sway Climate Talks
Combating Idleness and Deprivation
How China can be a model of food sustainability for the developing world
Kyoto II – Is it a Done Deal?
A meeting of the two largest economic powers
Why China will experience a 'soft' landing
Beware of superstitions
The Elephant and Dragon move ahead
G-7 target on fossil fuels raises many questions
Why Battle for Net Neutrality in the US Matters Globally
China’s resurgence – the ‘normal new’
Wanted: A managerial culture that embraces cultural differences
China's early education plan a smart investment in the future
The New Normal for China and India
2014
China's infrastructure push offers a sure track to better growth
US-China climate pact a good start, but not quite enough
Rethink the human’s place in the ‘digital revolution’
China springs a carbon surprise
Infrastructure - the invisible hand in full view
Dialogue vital for survival of Iraqi nation
China must nurture a new generation of beautiful minds
Great expectations in China and India
GM Cereals – The Pros and Corns
Time to be Honest about Our Energy Prospects
Weathering the Storm of Climate Change
Making a Big Decision? Beware of Your Biases
West Deserves Better Logistics Infrastructure
Digital Currencies do Represent the Future
From 'Printed' Houses to Wooden Skyscrapers
It’s time to bail out our schools, not our firms
Solution to India’s housing shortage – print new ones!
And the most promising green technologies of 2014 are ...
Transport infrastructure key to domestic, export growth
Oil stopgaps: Not worth risking
2013
Why the US should grant Edward Snowden amnesty
May we be more optimistic!
China headed for another massive social experiment?
A dialogue that worked
Yes, politicians deserve vacations - because we benefit
NPOs, NGOs invaluable as creators of dialogue
Look closer and ask: Is America reinventing itself?
Boston bombings case underlines need for dialogue
Millennium Development Goals or own goals?
As usual it's about balance - and timing - of course
Chinese strategists make right moves for growth
2012
Preparing for tomorrow
Austerity or growth?
Japan in danger of becoming 'just a place to fly over'
Beware of the business cycle?
An inconvenient truth
Limited offer sale: Buy a country
Where did our money go?
Leading from behind - a year of elections is almost over
Driving towards a green future
Waiting for springtime
Preserve or Perish
Startlingly similar Asia policy for Obama, Romney
Globalisation remains an irresistible trend
Google has the edge in smartphone war
U.S. Braces for China's Rise
Mankind’s General Scourge
The summer holidays are over and nothing has changed!
Put the hidden trillions to work
Making sense of India’s woes and wonders
Storm in a teacup!
Let’s give bad bankers a venue to admit their sins
News is about depth, not puff or velocity
Booming India, but too few toilets
Delayed Court decisions doesn't mean one may continue to play 'Great Game'
We need media to reflect on data and offer public a balanced view
Big polluters can lead in forging common purpose
The weighty issue of choosing a leader
EU-India Relations - Facing similar challenges
Educating with a goal
The Judicial Malaise
We are growing out, but not growing up
EU´s retrenchment enigma
Urbulence in the Eurozone and the effect on SMEs
Skolkovo May Help Russia to Diversify
Make things more effective
Tapping into the Commonwealth connection
Innovative models for public finance
Facebook revolution but Indian style
The feel-good factor
Asian investors - a private equity opportunity
India needs to be taller and stronger
China´s low sales volume...
Nations playing leapfrog
Shafts of sunlight
What webs we weave
As performers go to Davos, the circus steals the show
Can we control the politicians?
 
2011
Europe’s reminiscence
China firms should go for win-win in overseas ventures
Of procrastination...
Making sense of profiteering
Truth about financial mess must be laid bare
Small is also beautiful
China can help Europe with debt crisis
Excising the cancer of global corruption
Education, a critical asset
Arab uprisings set in motion forces of creative destruction
A new era of change
We must ensure better education for all
Beijing wary of bankrolling a lost cause
Asean's re-emergence as a local and global leader
Why India's Role in the Global Economy is Still Work in Progress
Its the leadership, stupid!
Reverse globalisation: The new buzzword
Can big oil go green and win?
By Frank-Jürgen Richter
Business Times, December 12, 2015
 

In the past few weeks and months, global warming has been on the world stage, perhaps more than any other time in recent memory. Droughts in California, flooding in India and deadly bushfires in Australia have all graced headlines of late and global climate change is without doubt partly to blame. In Paris, world leaders convened for the United Nations conference on climate change in an almost desperate attempt to stem the flow of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. Going green is on the agenda.

But through it all, the oil companies keep pumping, the pipelines keep flowing, the cars keep driving and the gas keeps guzzling. Despite warnings from nearly every major scientific body plus countless presidents, prime ministers, kings and congresses about the inherent dangers of burning fossil fuels and the threat it poses to the planet, the oil companies won’t stop. And nor will their profits.

Naturally, this has led to complacency on the “environmental responsibility” front on the part of these energy companies – Exxon has spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the last decade on green energy and environmental research. And while that may seem like a colossal amount, it is dwarfed when you discover that the sum’s but a minuscule fraction of the hundreds of billions in overall profits that Exxon walks away with each year. Because why bother with the future of humanity when your present is full of cash? Why save the planet when you’re already on top of the world?

Big energy has a big agenda but a simple premise: keep pumping oil until the oil runs out, or the people’s will to buy it diminishes – whichever comes first. But is there another way? Is it possible to have your cake and eat it too? Is it possible to produce green, renewable energy and make a profit while doing it? Can the big oil companies save the world, and stay on top of the world? Simply put, I think yes, they can.

So if we start with the premise that yes, it is possible to produce green, renewable energy and make a profit while doing so, the critical next question is: how do you do it? Well, to start with, we have to look deeper into the reason why oil companies are sticking with fossil fuels. At first it may seem as though profit is the only driver, but in reality there is a second element and that is investment. Going green is going to take a lot of green.

Right now, we have a petrol infrastructure. Not just in the west but all across the planet, we are primed to pump gas. Pipelines, tanker fleets, innumerable gas stations and of course, an even greater number of vehicles – from jet fighters to lowly sedans – are all there in support of and supported by the petrol infrastructure. And building this system was neither cheap nor easy. In fact, it was the combined effort of hundreds of companies and it’s taken us a full century to get here: a gas station on every corner and a gas-powered car in every garage.

So, we have a massive, expensive fossil fuel network which took decades to build, but herein lies the problem: such a system is not fully compatible with any type of green energy systems we might put in place. Switching to electricity for cars would require a totally new system, while switching to more environmentally friendly hydrogen fuel would require a massive overhaul of the present system. Neither of these things is something oil companies want to be involved in.

With this initial barrier to entry in place, it becomes easy to see why oil companies refuse to go green to the levels they need to in order to protect our planet’s future. Because they not only have to shift all of their production infrastructure away from fossil fuels, but also the entire global distribution infrastructure.

Road to renewables
However, one oil company could decide to change its ways. One of the giants could dedicate its full resources to converting to renewable energy, spending perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars repurposing old facilities, building new ones and creating an infrastructure which supports renewables. But if the others didn’t follow suit, their effort would be hopeless, because even the largest oil company is dwarfed by the global demand for energy.

And therein lies the solution. If oil companies want to make money going green, they must do so in exactly the opposite way by which they emerged: through working together. As fossil fuel resources become increasingly scarce and global warming’s effects become increasingly acute, the companies will have no choice but to adapt. However, by that time so many others will have had the opportunity to act, to plan for a future the oil companies will not be able to be a part of. Thus, in the short term, this massive effort will result in significant loss for the oil companies – not to mention the inevitable competitive and antitrust issues – but such is often the case when investing in the future.

So, rather than being defeated by their own competition and a desire to control resources in the present, the oil companies have a unique opportunity: to work together to create a renewable infrastructure that the public actually wants, for the future these companies have known is coming for far longer than they ever admitted.

Creating renewable power for an ever growing and ever complex world, where new technology is constantly emerging, will be a monumental task. It is a task which may also take the power of governments, and it will certainly take time and money, but it cannot happen unless the energy companies can dedicate themselves to a greener future.

 

The writer is founder and chairman of Horasis, a global visions community.

 


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