We all generally share similar aspirations: jobs and good health, comfortable and safe places to live and a clean environment. That’s true in U.S. cities like Dallas – where ExxonMobil, the company I now have the privilege to lead, is headquartered – and it’s true all over the world. What’s also true, and too often overlooked, is the vital role that energy and energy technologies play in fulfilling these shared aspirations.
Energy is the power behind everything – from our smartphones to our global economy. Growing U.S. energy production has spurred a manufacturing renaissance, adding $20 billion a year to the economy and hundreds of thousands of new jobs, according to estimates by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. ExxonMobil’s new projects on the U.S. Gulf Coast are expected to generate more than 45,000 jobs alone.
Most forecasts project that many factors – including global population growth of nearly 2 billion, a doubling of worldwide economic output and a rapid expansion of the middle class in emerging economies – will raise global energy demand by an amount equivalent to the total energy used today in the entire Western Hemisphere.
This growing demand creates a dual challenge: providing energy to meet people’s needs while managing the risks of climate change. I believe, and my company believes, that climate risks warrant action and it’s going to take all of us – business, governments and consumers – to make meaningful progress. At ExxonMobil, we’re encouraged that the pledges made at last year’s Paris Accord create an effective framework for all countries to address rising emissions; in fact, our company forecasts carbon reductions consistent with the results of the Paris accord commitments.
The world already has powerful tools for meeting global energy demand while reducing emissions. One is natural gas. Today in America, nearly one-third of the electricity is produced using natural gas. Our role as the country’s largest producer of natural gas – which emits up to 60 percent less CO2 than coal for power generation – has helped bring CO2 emissions in the United States to the lowest level since the 1990s. Increasing use of natural gas means our overall energy mix is growing less carbon-intensive.
Greater energy efficiency is also essential. It might seem counterintuitive, but a big part of ExxonMobil’s business is developing products and technologies that help save energy. Examples include our advanced automotive materials that make cars lighter and more fuel-efficient, and improved plastic packaging that reduces the energy needed to ship goods around the world.
But the world also will need breakthrough clean-energy technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS). ExxonMobil is investing heavily in CCS, including research in a novel technology that uses fuel cells that could make CCS more affordable and expand its use.
We’re also researching advanced biofuels, including biofuels made from algae – a potentially game-changing energy source that would place less stress on food supplies, land and fresh water than traditional biofuels while reducing emissions. All told, we’ve invested $7 billion to develop lower-emission energy solutions during the past decade and a half.
Governments can help advance the search for energy technologies by funding basic research and by enacting forward-looking policies. A uniform price of carbon applied consistently across the economy is a sensible approach to emissions reduction. One option being discussed by policymakers is a national revenue-neutral carbon tax. This would promote greater energy efficiency and the use of today’s lower-carbon options, avoid further burdening the economy, and also provide incentives for markets to develop additional low-carbon energy solutions for the future.
This is an exciting time to be part of the world’s largest publicly traded energy company. The responsibilities and challenges are significant and so are the possibilities. I am convinced that by taking advantage of human ingenuity, embracing free markets and enacting sound government policies, we can meet the world’s energy needs and meet all of our shared aspirations in an environmentally and socially responsible way. ExxonMobil is committed to achieving these goals.
Darren W. Woods is ExxonMobil’s chairman and chief executive officer.