Royal Dutch Shell abandons greenwashing campaign
In recent years Royal Dutch Shell, the second-largest oil company in the world, has pursued a fairly tepid greenwashing campaign of trivial side-investments in wind and solar energy. That much is normal for big energy companies seeking to camouflage themselves as environmentally relevant, and in some cases (i.e. BP) the companies in question appear to be at least partially serious…. though Exxon Mobil makes a point of not even trying. Shell has announced it will end its investments in the two most useful and practical forms of renewable energy, wind and solar, in favor of spending more time with biofuels.
Shell’s move is unsurprising, and at least to my way of thinking not particularly unwelcome. The big carbon companies have been dedicated totally to their respective products (e.g. coal, oil, gas, and pollution) for decades, and rightly so… that’s where all their accumulated expertise resides. Fossil carbon remains, at least for now, the predominant fuel source driving human civilization, and the companies most experienced with providing such fuels should probably keep focused on their tasks. Wind and solar will replace fossil carbon, to be sure, but for my money I’d rather have the next generation of high-efficiency, high-tech wind turbines and solar photovoltaics developed by companies who actually take such technologies seriously. The most creative and innovative solutions to renewable energy demand are most likely to come from small companies with fresh ideas, independent researchers pursuing cutting-edge science, and venture capitalists backing high-risk, high-reward business models… not from moribund corporate leviathans.
The big oil companies find oil… that’s what they’ve always done, and it’s what they’re best at. In recent years a number of oil giants have tried to dabble in renewables, usually by tossing some petty cash in the general direction of glossy brochures showing vaguely environmentalish logos, children playing in green grass beneath a wind turbine built by someone else, and smiling minorities in green hardhats. All of which is nice, but I’d prefer they just look for oil and leave envirotech research to the grownups. Carbon companies have no real incentive to conduct renewables research, so why bother trying to fool anyone in the first place? Having an oil company talk about how wonderful wind power can be is a little like having cattle ranchers host a vegetarian cooking show: interesting, but not convincing.