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Chevron CEO: Governments — Not Oil Companies — Are Responsible For Finding ‘A Better Solution’ To Climate

By Stephen Lacey  

"Chevron CEO: Governments — Not Oil Companies — Are Responsible For Finding ‘A Better Solution’ To Climate"

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What does America’s second-largest oil company think about how to deal with global warming? Why, exploit more carbon-intensive resources, of course.

When questioned about the need to address global warming in an interview with the Associated Press, Chevron CEO John Watson said he believes the only path to global prosperity is more “oil, gas, and coal.”

Watson also said that it’s up to government leaders to find “a better solution for us” when dealing with emissions — not the companies responsible for emitting the carbon pollution heating the planet:

AP: Do fossil fuel producers bear the responsibility for curbing greenhouse gas emissions?

WATSON: We have the responsibility to deliver our energy in an environmentally sound fashion. The greatest advancements in living standards in recorded history have taken place in the modern hydrocarbon era. I don’t think that’s coincidental. Our leaders have to make a decision. Do they want that to continue or do they have a better solution for us? So it’s not my call.

AP: How should society go about reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

WATSON: If you look around the world, the countries with the best environmental practices are the wealthiest. There’s a reason for that. If you’re worried about where your next meal is going to come from or shelter over your head, your focus is on those things.

AP: The U.S. is a wealthy country, how should we reduce emissions?

WATSON: Well, we are a wealthy country. On the other hand, the economy is growing slowly. We have high unemployment. I think that’s part of the reason why the president said now is not the time for a carbon tax, because he recognized that that would put pressure on the economy and put pressure on our energy prices, put pressure on manufacturing business, put pressure on consumers.

AP: When it’s time to address the carbon issue, how should we do it?

WATSON: It’s very difficult for the United States to go it alone. Watch what (other) governments do. The day-to-day decisions being made (show) that concern about climate change is less than other concerns that they have. China is racing by the U.S. in greenhouse gas emissions. Germany is shutting down their nuclear power, the only energy source with zero carbon emissions that can be produced at scale. Japan, much the same way. Governments around the world are making the choice that the benefits of lifting people out of squalor are very important. And affordable energy is the way to get there. And that currently comes through oil, gas and coal.

Naturally, developing more fossil fuels is the solution according to Chevron, the eighth-largest oil company in the world. And developing climate solutions is apparently the responsibility of others.

The view from more impartial observers is remarkably different.

One of the world’s most respected energy institutions, the International Energy Agency, has warned that roughly two-thirds of the world’s carbon reserves must stay underground in order to prevent disastrous global warming.

Even the World Bank — historically a major financial backer of fossil fuel projects around the world — agrees that the world is on a path toward “extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise” without immediate decarbonization.

The accounting firm PricewaterhouseCooper estimates we would need to quadruple our rate of divestment from fossil fuels through 2050 in order to avoid such a grim warming scenario, warning “we have passed a critical threshold.”

That’s why environmental activists have rolled out a new fossil fuel divestment campaign in order to directly target companies like Chevron that are avoiding responsibility for climate change.

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30 Responses to Chevron CEO: Governments — Not Oil Companies — Are Responsible For Finding ‘A Better Solution’ To Climate

  1. Michael Berndtson says:

    From John Watson’s bio on Chevron’s website:

    “Watson was born in 1956 in California. He began his career in 1980 when he joined Chevron as a financial analyst. He earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from the University of California at Davis in 1978 and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago in 1980.”

    Of course he doesn’t think oil and gas has a responsibility – he’s a freaking bean counter. O&G as a commodity has more to do with banking than technology and innovation. There hasn’t been a in-house innovation in either exploration, production, refining or marketing in over 40 years. And that was chiefly due to environmental protection controls on air and water forced on them by the CWA and CAA. I’d argue that the last innovation from O&G was selling hot dogs and fountain drinks along with cigarettes in gas stations. Watson probably spearheaded that.

    Most important – he’s a fresh water (Univ. of Chicago Guy) economists.

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    If Watson supports government action on climate, his company would stop giving money to political candidates who deny its existence and fight any remedies. That makes passing the buck to the government absurd. If Chevron was just a neutral actor, they would also stop contributing to far right think tanks and trade organizations and get serious about funding clean energy, instead of bragging about better light bulbs in their headquarters.

    I almost prefer Rex Tillerson, a mean old hillbilly, who goes ahead and says that they will continue to plunder, burn, and poison, since America must have “energy”. Watson feels the heat from the neighbors of his liberal California headquarters, and his statement that it’s the government’s job is just an attempt to placate them. Tillerson doesn’t have that problem, since Texas is the original petro state, and the oil companies are even managing the content of school textbooks.

    Watson should worry less about the locals and more about the building rage against US oil companies from all over the world. Ecuador and Nigeria hate the destruction, and everybody else hates the relentless and growing carbon emissions. Watson will be indicted by an international tribunal within a decade, and his assets seized (which is much worse than jail for that crowd). If he had more brains and less greed, he would begin to act now.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Watson is young enough to live another 20 or 30 years, and probably has nightmares about mobs with pitch-forks and lengths of hempen rope. This effort is probably just alibi creation.

  3. John McCormick says:

    This guy is a piece of corporate fly paper!

  4. Dru Bacon says:

    Chevron has destroyed a huge part of the Ecuadorian rainforest with oil spills. A court levied an $18 Billion judgement against Chevron for their outrageous actions. Chevron’s response has been to not pay the fine and to launch a massive PR campaign. The above article serves to further explain the arrogant attitude of a company interested only in the bottom line. Shame on Chevron and their greedy CEO.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Sounds like there is a need for a citizens’ arrest and ‘rendition’ to Ecuador for certain persons.

  5. fj says:

    Watson: “The greatest advancements in living standards in recorded history have taken place in the hydrocarbon era. I don’t think that’s coincidental.”

    Comment: Neither was the credit bubble coincidental and eventual crash.

    Watson: “carbon tax . . . would put pressure on the economy”

    Comment: The fossil fuel economy is devastating the environment which supports life on this planet which incidentally includes us.

    And channeling the Jack Benny skit where he’s confronted by a mugger who says “Your money or your life,” and Benny has to think about it.

  6. Michael Berndtson says:

    After rereading the interview with John Watson, I’ve come to the conclusion that Oil and Gas must be turned into a heavily regulated utility. Or nothing happens with climate change. Lifetime and pampered O&G men are not going to change or adapt business plans. Pump and refine is all they know. Watson’s comments are on the verge of actionable.

    Sorry about the multiple comments.

  7. NJP1 says:

    the fossil fuel that we are supposed to leave in the ground is the source of our cheap food.
    while those who can afford expensive food won’t be affected by this, those who can’t must starve.
    Tinker with this equation as much as you like, but this is what it means
    Hydrocarbon fuel is now our main food supply, we will not stop using it until it’s all gone.
    After that, we starve

    • wili says:

      “After that, we starve.”

      If by ‘we’ you care to include the poorest billion or so people on the planet, well, that ‘we’ is already pretty much there.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      The most productive agriculture is organic, and the hydrocarbon fuelled agribusiness is an artifact of market capitalism and the dominance of agribusiness corporations. The Cubans proved that you can dump hydrocarbon agriculture, and the rest of humanity could too, if the global kakistocracy allowed them to do so. And there is no alternative, as the age of cheap hydrocarbons ebbs away.

  8. prokaryotes says:

    Nuclear energy is high in carbon emissions, because of cement, fossil fuels which are generated during the mining process and later when radioactive waste is disposed.

    And i thought now is not the time for a carbon tax was said by one of Obama’s advisor. And not sure what he meant with “not now”. This week? This month? This year?

  9. In a perverse way, Watson is right. The government is the only plausible organ of social cooperation at the required scale.

    And the first thing government ought to do is impose a carbon tax. He can’t have it both ways–put the onus on government but then fight a carbon tax.

    Oil companies, like all “persons,” are subject to the Constitution, which says, “We, the People…”

    Therefore, we need immediate agreement of the majority to take this and other measures.

  10. wili says:

    If he were slightly more honest, he would have said: “Governments–not the Companies that own them–…”

  11. Joan Savage says:

    Some of that squalor that Watson mentions can be attributed to the fossil fuel factors that push people off of modest self-sufficient lives to slums where they are desperate for employment.

    In the folk song about John Henry’s manual labor competing with a machine, “He laid down his hammer and he died, good Lord, he laid down his hammer and he died.”

  12. Paul Magnus says:

    Its time for ff companies to be nationalized.

  13. SecularAnimist says:

    Governments are responsible for imposing tens of billions of dollars in fines on corporations, and for conducting criminal prosecutions of corporate executives, whose deliberate sociopathic negligence causes massive environmental destruction.

    I look forward to reading Mr. Watson’s first interview given from his prison cell.

  14. David Smith says:

    The crisis that we are facing now with AGW indicates that fossil fuels as an energy source do not work at scale. They worked fine when only 4% or 10% of the worlds population used them to support lifestyle. As expanding populations require more the system is clearly failing. “Scale” as currently used has become a marketing term. It has no connection to reality and indicates a wide spread delusion.

  15. BillD says:

    Yeah–it’s a job for government, not companies. Companies are there to maximize profit within laws and constraints set by government. I wouldn’t mind paying $10/gallon for gas, if everyone else did the same. Only strong government policies (carbon tax etc.; subsidies1 for renewable energy) will make a significant difference. And yes, the poor will, in any case suffer from the high cost of food–either because energy is more expensive or because droughts and floods caused by climate change have reduced agricultural production. My guess is that the planet’s human population will start to decline some time in the next 40 years.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Paying $10 a gallon for gas is only just and fair in a society where income and wealth are as equitably distributed as possible. Of course, market capitalism exists to increase inequality by as much as possible, without precipitating a revolt that the forces of repression cannot contain.

  16. Griff says:

    We have closed the circle.
    “Our leaders have to make a decision. Do they want that to continue or do they have a better solution for us? So it’s not my call.”
    Of course “Our leaders” are beholden to the fossil fuel industry that financed their election campaign!
    But It’s not his call (fault).

  17. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Myth 1: Economy and ecology are separate. Myth 2: Nobody else is doing it. That is the drivel we were fed here before the carbon legislation went through. Get on top of it fast folks, ME

  18. Charles says:

    Wow, this represents moral bankruptcy, the kind of pre-conventional moral thinking that we can no longer tolerate.

  19. fj says:

    It is very important to include people like Chevron’s CEO in the ongoing conversation on transitioning away for fossil fuels. Keeping these people insulated from other ideas serves no one and the main goal should be to develop a much more rational economy and governance.

    Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute did this in “Reinventing Fire” which included forewords by Marvin Odum, President Shell Oil Company and John W. Rowe, Chairman and CEO of Excelon Corporation.

    • David Smith says:

      I think we need to ask ourselves what people like Chevron’s CEO have that we want? They offer us nothing useful. Including them at the table only makes overcoming AGW more difficult. Their desires, their expertice and advice should be ignored. We should work tirelessly that they become irrelevant and forgotten.

      • Joan Savage says:

        Chevron has what older investors want, stable stock prices and comfortable dividends. Pension plans, personal or through work, often include shares in the big energy companies.

        It’s pitiful to find out how many of my older liberal friends are tied to retirement plans that include those stocks. They have adequate income from the retirement plans despite the recession – and losing the stable income would trouble them.

        Crack the pension fund problem, if one can, as it’s probably way bigger than university endowments.

      • fj says:

        They have a huge amount of power and should they flip would greatly help the transition.

        Maybe they are what Obama means when he says we have to have a conversation.

        It will be huge when we start to really deal with climate chaos and what we must do not to succumb to it.