Big Oil CEOs defend themselves against criticism

Executives representing energy majors in the U.S., Europe and Asia speak during a CNBC-moderated panel session at the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Chief executives of some of the world’s largest energy companies on Monday sought to defend themselves from criticism, saying it is not possible to keep everyone happy amid the planned energy transition.

Speaking at the ADIPEC oil and gas conference, which opened in Abu Dhabi on Monday, executives representing energy majors in the U.S., Europe and Asia sought to strike a positive tone on the current state of play for the fossil fuel industry.

It comes shortly after climate protesters took to the streets in hundreds of cities across the globe to demand that world leaders phase out the burning of fossil fuels, the chief driver of the climate crisis.

Big Oil has been accused of dialing back its climate pledges in recent months following record annual profits that were described by human rights group Amnesty International as “patently unjustifiable” and “an unmitigated disaster.”

“We’ve got to step up and prepare for the decarbonized systems of the future,” Tengku Muhammad Taufik, president and group CEO of Malaysia’s state energy firm, Petronas, said during a CNBC-moderated panel Monday.

“So, the debate has always been posed here, I’m reminded of an old saying: ‘If you want to keep everyone happy, sell ice cream.’ We are not in the business of ice cream — and I’m reminded, there are people who are lactose intolerant,” Taufik said.

“The indication here is we have to make some tough decisions and we have to be bounded by facts, rationality, practical steps but we will get there,” he added.

The biggest challenge that is harder to address than even the innovation around technology is just getting people to trust our industry again.

Vicki Hollub

CEO of Occidental Petroleum

As had been widely expected, a major U.N. report published last month confirmed that the world is currently not on track to meet the long-term goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, a landmark accord that aims to pursue efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

The world has warmed by around 1.1 degrees Celsius after over a century of burning fossil fuels as well as unequal and unsustainable energy and land use. Indeed, it is this temperature increase that is fueling a series of extreme weather events around the world.

Vicki Hollub, CEO of U.S. oil and gas producer Occidental Petroleum, said these were “really exciting times” for the oil and gas industry and suggested a major challenge for fossil fuel companies was working to regain the trust of society.

“I don’t see where we are today as something that is going to end our industry although there are some out there that want it to go away. As we have done in the past, we will find ways to innovate out of this situation that we’re in,” Hollub said during…

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