Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil’s CEO, recently spoke with Charlie Rose. The two covered a number of topics, from Tillerson’s less than generous opinion of the Keystone XL protests, to a carbon tax versus cap-and-trade, to his pessimistic view of renewable energy’s chances of displacing fossil fuels anytime soon. [Businessweek]
Why have environmental groups made Keystone such a priority?
There’s a segment of the environmental groups that’s very concerned about the burning of fossil fuels. In a sort of obtuse way, they took a view that if they could prevent the transport of crude oil from Canada to the U.S., then that would throw an obstacle in the way of future developments. I think they probably misjudged Canada’s resolve.
Where do you stand on a carbon tax?
At some point policymakers will get around to dealing with additional policies around climate in ways to incentivize certain behaviors. There are different models, one of which is cap-and-trade, which Europe has been trying now with not a lot of success. If you’re going to undertake a policy with those characteristics, a carbon tax is much more straightforward. It’s much simpler to administer, and it doesn’t leave itself open to as much gaming.
How much longer do you think we’ll be burning fossil fuels?
When coal came into the picture, it took about 50 or 60 years to displace timber. Then crude oil was found, and it took 60, 70 years, and then natural gas. So it takes 100 years or more for some new breakthrough in energy to become the dominant source. Most people have difficulty coming to grips with the sheer enormity of energy consumption. If we look at our energy outlook, at things like renewable wind, solar, biofuels, we have those sources over the next 30 years growing 700 to 800 percent. But in the year 2040, they’ll supply just 1 percent.
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