Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Shell and Pond Scum

(photo of photogenic-but-serious lab worker brought to you by Shell's press department).

Shell Oil said today it would begin growing algae in Hawaii to test its potential for producing vegetable oil usable as biodiesel.

"Shell is Europe's largest oil company, posting $6.92 billion in net profit in the third quarter. A Shell spokeswoman in London declined to say how much money the investment represented.
"This is a 2.5 hectare (6 acre) demonstration project, and it will take up to two years to complete," Shell spokeswoman Olga Gorodilina said of the project. Whether it proceeds further "will depend on the results," she said.

Well, those two years will fly by, and then we'll see.

I'd love to provide a breakdown on how much Shell spends on investment in renewable energy research & production annually, and how much on oil exploration & production. Unfortunately, as of last quarter they moved their electricity-generating (wind) projects under the rubric of "Energy" on their financial reports, and biofuels will presumably be included with "Production."

For competitive reasons, they can't release numbers for individual projects. You understand. Maybe they'll throw us a bone in their annual report (or annual sustainability report).

I won't rehash through the whole "let Shell be the shark it is" vs. "something is better than nothing so Greenwashing isn't all bad" arguments here. They're already here.

Suffice it to say I'm a "something is better than nothing" kind of guy, within limits.

(photo of serious scientist doing serious testing on new light source for growing alga spores. Note white lab coat proves he is authentic)

So, is it coincidence that Shell made this announcement during the U.N. climate change conference?

(the bleak-looking growsite).

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