(flickr:james at 42)
Having recently seen Shell's first quarter earnings, I have a question: why does the company not disclose how much money it invests in renewable energy?
Don't get me wrong (and if you're hoping for a good big oil-bashing article stop reading now). But when the CFO starts talking about how the company is investing heavily in oil capacity in the Artic Circle (subtext: which is opening up to exploitation due to global warming) you to have to wonder about what they think of the future.
Actually on second thought they break it down pretty clearly that they see fossil fuel use growing massively in the future.
"We are increasing our investment, ploughing most of our profits into finding, producing and refining oil and natural gas. Our investment levels have more than doubled since 2000, to $25 billion in 2006."
"Affordability has been the main problem for new alternatives like biofuels, wind and solar. Even at recent high oil and natural gas prices, they cannot yet compete on price on a large scale."
So it doesn't bother me that Shell won an award from Transparency International last week about disclosing revenue streams: it's the equivalent of saying "at least they're honest in that regard."
But returning to the question of how much $$ investment they're putting into alternatives: it's a really basic one for me. I think it would help people judge *how seriously* a huge energy company _ for better or worse _ takes renewables as a business as time goes by.
It doesn't help that Shell has stopped disclosing numbers on alternative electricity generation, which they used to do. The reasoning, if I recall correctly, was that it's become such a significant amount that it's now considered a normal business and folded into their "power generation" numbers. And/or that it's commerically sensitive.
Yet, they began reporting on profits from oil sands separately this very quarter (US$250M). Why one "new" energy source and not others?
I notice their ''external ' review panel' was complaining about the lack of disclosure of investment in renewables last year so maybe we'll get more when they release their sustainability report this year.
For balance in this post, I have an open question for Greenpeace as well.
Why is the organization so monolithic in its viewpoints? I'm not saying that they're right or wrong, I'm just surprised that members appear to move in such lockstep / groupthink.
I'll just throw out two examples:
Everybody at Greenpeace opposes nuclear energy.
Everybody at Greenpeace opposes genetically modified organisms.
Yet these are complicated ethical questions.
And Greenpeace is such a large organization _ wouldn't you expect there to be some dissenting views among the ranks? I've never encountered any.