Stanislaw: Shift energy focus from 'green' to 'clean'

A global low-carbon future is possible if policymakers and economic leaders—including the oil and gas industry—shift focus from “green energy” to “clean energy,” said energy expert Joseph A. Stanislaw Dec. 9 at the Deloitte LLP Oil & Gas conference in Houston.

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Dec. 9
-- A global low-carbon future is possible if policymakers and economic leaders—including the oil and gas industry—shift focus from “green energy” to “clean energy,” said energy expert Joseph A. Stanislaw Dec. 9 at the Deloitte LLP Oil & Gas conference in Houston.

“It is now clear that the all-consuming global obsession with anything green has subsided” as the world moves “from breathless anticipation of a green dawn, to the more sober work of systematically and thoughtfully building toward a low-carbon future,” said Stanislaw, who heads the JA Stanislaw Group LLC and is a senior advisor to Deloitte. He is also cofounder and former president and chief executive officer of Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

There has been growing public recognition in recent years that oil, natural gas, and coal have the potential to be clean fuels, Stanislaw said. Fossil fuels, previously the black sheep of the new renewable energy era, “are easing their way back into the conversation as the essential bridge to a cleaner age,” he said. “There is a growing understanding that this bridge to the future will be longer than has been widely acknowledged. And there is a realization that the pylons of this bridge—oil, natural gas, and coal—are at risk.”

An October survey by the Pew Research Center showed 57% of Americans polled see “solid evidence” the earth is warming. While still a strong majority, that’s down 14% from April 2008 and an even sharper fall from 77% acceptance in 2006 and 2007. The poll was taken prior to the current “Climategate” scandal surrounding leaked e-mails from the University of East Anglia indicating some key scientists fudged scientific data to support evidence of anthropogenic global warming.

“It does not necessarily reflect a more benighted public—just one that has more immediate existential concerns. It also might indicate that the public became skeptical about climate change because, despite the overheated rhetoric, they did not see politicians taking concrete actions,” Stanislaw said.

“The principle goal of policymakers should be to establish a level playing field that makes it easier to identify the cleanest fuels producible at the lowest cost, while also reducing energy use through efficiency and other technologies,” he said.

Moreover, Stanislaw said, “The current schism between the old and new energy industries—wherein the green evangelists mock the traditional fuels and the oil and gas crowd reciprocate—should end. This transformation also could be led by policymakers who admit there is no silver bullet in our common effort to build a low-carbon future. All energy forms, provided they can meet standards for being clean and cost-effective, should be able to compete for market share and funding.

He called on oil and gas companies to commit “to developing carbon-neutral technology. The top goal could be to produce ever-cleaner oil, natural gas, and coal. Within a generation, we could well be talking about clean oil, clean natural gas, and clean coal.”

For industry, he said, “Moving to a clean energy world represents the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century. The Chinese market alone for clean technology is expected to reach $1 trillion annually.”

He predicted, “There will probably be more money spent in the energy sector in a broad sense in the next 50 years than has been invested in the past 100 years, if not in the history of mankind. Channeling these investments well, into an era of clean energy, is the challenge that policymakers, the private sector, and the public all face together. The bridge to tomorrow’s energy future depends on a sensible transition plan—one that takes advantage of all of the clean fuel sources available to us.”

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