‘Consistency’: Why World’s Second-Largest Oil Company CEO Wants To Keep Obama’s Climate Agenda

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden wants President Donald Trump to break his campaign promise to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement so energy companies can have more “consistency” when doing business overseas.

Van Beurden heads the second-largest oil and gas company in the world, so more consistency between countries when it comes to global warming policies would help his business.

“We want to have a relatively coherent set of policies that will make society move to whatever government has decided it should move to,” van Beurden told NPR’s Ari Phillips in an interview Thursday.

Shell has increasingly invested in green energy technology, like wind turbines and solar panels, and is one of the world’s largest producers of natural gas — a fuel that would get a huge boost if the U.S. stuck to the Paris agreement.

In fact, Shell spent $54 billion to take over BG Group in 2016, which gave them a 20 percent share over the world’s liquefied natural gas market. Shell now has twice the gas production capability of its biggest rival, ExxonMobil.

A more global energy policy framework that is centered on fighting global warming would also help European-based oil companies already burdened by regulations, cap-and-trade and carbon taxes.

“That’s one of the biggest things that we need, indeed — predictability, consistency and a level playing field,” van Beurden told Phillips. “One of the biggest concerns that I have around climate change is the unpredictability with which governments will go about it.”

“If we have a very clear understanding that governments, successive governments will continue to act consistently with a certain policy set that we believe in, I have no issue with it.”

Shell joined four other European oil companies in pushing for a global tax on carbon dioxide emissions at a United Nations climate summit in Bonn, Germany in 2015. The five European oil majors signed an open letter six months before UN diplomats met in Paris to hash out a new global agreement to fight global warming.

“Pricing carbon obviously adds a cost to our production and our products, but carbon pricing policy frameworks will contribute to provide our businesses and their many stakeholders with a clear roadmap for future investment, a level playing field for all energy sources across geographies and a clear role in securing a more sustainable future,” Shell and others wrote in their letter.

Now, van Beurden is joining the chorus of energy industry CEOs who want Trump to stay in the Paris agreement, which the Obama administration joined in 2016.

Oil and gas giant ExxonMobil wants Trump to stick with the Paris Agreement, and so does the coal company Cloud Peak Energy, albeit for completely different reasons.

“Of course it is the U.S.’s sovereign decision to do so. I think, would we advise the president to pull out of Paris — no, and for a number of reasons,” van Beurden said.

“It cannot be in the interests of the United States to put itself off-site for such an important societal debate which will have, ultimately, also implications on trade, on bilateral relationships, on political relationships, on the way the United States is seen internationally,” he added. “And we all want in that respect the United States to have a strong, meaningful and impactful voice at all tables around the world.”

Trump promised to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on the campaign trail, but has yet to make a decision on whether or not he will keep that promise. White House officials are split on the issue, and some have joined with corporate America and urged the president to stay in the agreement.

Trump will officially take a position on the Paris Agreement in the coming weeks.

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