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Former Shell head: More offshore drilling

Sign from a Shell gas station

Though the BP oil disaster has made a detrimental impact to his argument, former Shell Oil president John Hofmeister is pro-offshore drilling. According to Hofmeister, the U.S. will still rely heavily on domestically-produced oil within the next 30 years, a reduction of offshore drilling will transfer billions of dollars to foreign countries and hurt the development of new jobs. He encourages the U.S. explore shallow-water or on-shore drilling as options for more oil to avoid deep-water situations where the current oil disaster began.

Hofmeister also mentions he's not for a continued reliance on oil. "Within 50 years, we will using much, much less oil than we do today," he says. "I call for the end of the internal combustion engine within the next 20 to 25 years."

READ INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

How does this BP spill affect your stand?

"I think it risks it considerably. The reason for offshore drilling is the fact that over the course of the next 10, 20, even 30 years. This nation is going to continue to rely upon domestically produced oil reserves to keep the economy going. And if we somehow walk away from or reduce offshore drilling because of the BP spill and don't think of it in the broader context, and put the regulatory fixes or the redundancy fixes in place that can help us continue to use offshore drilling, we'll simply import more oil. And we will be transferring additional hundreds of billions of dollars to foreign countries rather than developing jobs here in America."

Does the oil spill put at risk initiatives for more offshore drilling?

"Yes, I think it does. There are those who are anti-hydrocarbon. There are those who are anti-offshore drilling, anti-oil. And already we see on the network news shows advertisements with windmills and pollution saying we need a clean energy economy. And I agree we need a clean energy economy, but let's be realistic -- 250 million cars are on the road today. They're going to be on the road for the next 20 years. We're going to build millions more over the course of the next decade. We can't deny the American people the fact that they're going to need liquid fuel for personal transportation. So if we make it very difficult or impossible to continue drilling in offshore locations, we're simply going to drive the price of gasoline to where the general public is going to be driven berserk by too-high prices in return for not being able to develop our own natural resources. I think that's not good policy."

What about the argument that we have to push ourselves away from the oil table or we just keep slurping?

"I hear that argument and I agree with it in the fullness of time. And what do I mean by the fullness of time? In my book, 'Why We Hate the Oil Companies,' I say that within 50 years, we will using much, much less oil than we do today. But a big decision has to be made. And that's why we need a short-medium, long-term plan to accommodate all of this. The best way -- the most effective way to reduce demand for oil -- is to have a substitute, an alternative for the internal combustion engine. And in the book, I call for the end of the internal combustion engine within the next 20-25 years. We have good substitutes that are coming along very rapidly -- battery vehicles for people who do short commuting distances, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for people who do long commuting or to visit their relatives hundreds of miles away over a weekend. Japan and Germany are going down the path of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as quickly as they can. But as I say in my book, we have so politicized energy that while the Bush administration was pushing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as rapidly as they could, the new administration -- the Obama administration -- has pulled back. And they actually tried to de-fund the Bush initiative. Congress reinstated the money. This kind of zigzag politics in what is a major opportunity to rid ourselves of the oil consuming internal combustion engine is why I think we need to get politics out of energy."

Do you talk to BP?

"I've had limited contact, but yes, some contact. They are very busy, as you can imagine."

What do you talk about?

"With respect to the immediacy of the problem in the Gulf of Mexico because of my organization, my foundation Citizens for Affordable Energy, I'm getting a slug of suggestions from the general public about ideas for cleaning up the oil or stopping the flow and so I'm passing these ideas along to their crisis center to see if they can put them under whatever level of consideration they might have. In addition, just because I have had a bit of media time in recent weeks, I think I have to go to the source to make sure that when I'm saying something I'm speaking with some veracity because what I want to try to do is use this BP oil spill --- this is an unprecedented in 40 years, as you know; we've never had this happen in the Gulf of Mexico in decades and decades of safe production -- how do we fit this spill into the broader energy plan which I'm trying to lay out in the book."

As a former oil executive, what do you know about energy policy that you feel Americas don't understand?

"There are several things. There is a lot of misinformation and disinformation floating around -- particularly among the governing class as they put their views forward on what kind of energy we should have in our future. We have unfortunately, there have been some officials, including the president, who have said things that are just plain wrong the American people. When President Obama talks about, we only have 3 percent of the world's oil reserves, therefore we can't drill our way to energy independence, he is extrapolating from a very narrowly defined definition of SEC oil reserves that is in part due to the fact that we haven't been allowed to explore for 30 years in the offshore, outer-continental shelf to say we have less oil than we do. We have far more oil than the president is implying. I call that disinformation. That's wrong for elected officials to tell the American people something that's simply not true."

But aren't oil finds not only not a sure thing, but also very dangerous?

"There's another question that you could raise this regard: Why are we in the deep-water offshore to begin with when we could be either in the shallow offshore -- far less risky. We could be onshore, on federal lands drilling for oil. There are huge, huge volumes of reserves to be developed, but these are all put off limits by public policy. We're in the risky deep water because there's nowhere else to go. And if I were to be cynical about it, I would say it's out of sight, out of mind, therefore nobody cares. Well, when there's a blowout, a lot of people care. It is far more difficult, far more expensive, far higher risk to be in the deep water and to walk away from much lower risk reserves, which we could be producing with Americans working in American jobs. But for public policy reasons, we walk away from those opportunities."

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