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Chevron chief dismisses climate change concerns

Climate change must come second to economic growth and the continued exploitation of fossil fuels according to Chevron CEO John Watson.

In an interview with news agency AP published in the Washington Post, Watson argues oil, gas and coal are the only “affordable” sources of energy available to governments.

Reports from the World Bank and accountants PwC published in November 2012 warned that the world is on a trajectory to warm 4-6°C by 2100, which scientists say would lead to catastrophic changes in the global climate, together with rising sea levels.

But Watson, whose company is planning to invest $33 billion in oil and gas exploration this year, says efforts to take direct action to address climate change, such as putting a tax on carbon, are inappropriate as they will put pressure on energy process and the world economy.

Chevron CEO John Watson: The company is the second largest investor-owned oil and gas business in the world, reportedly making a $24 billion profit in 2012

“It’s very difficult for the United States to go it alone. Watch what (other) governments do. The day-to-day decisions being made (show) that concern about climate change is less than other concerns that they have,” he said.

“China is racing by the US in greenhouse gas emissions. Germany is shutting down their nuclear power, the only energy source with zero carbon emissions that can be produced at scale. Japan, much the same way.

“Governments around the world are making the choice that the benefits of lifting people out of squalor are very important. And affordable energy is the way to get there. And that currently comes through oil, gas and coal.”

Watson also appeared to dismiss renewable technologies such as wind and solar, arguing against “big subsidies on technologies that we know are more expensive and won’t necessarily solve the issue”.

Instead he suggests instead governments should invest in energy efficiency and back “pre-commercial activity to try to advance some of these breakthrough technologies”, although these technologies were not named during the interview.

A report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) released in 2011 revealed fossil fuel subsidies last year reached $523bn in 2011. Renewable energy subsidies during the same period totalled $88bn.

The IEA say energy efficiency measures could keep the door to limiting warming to 2°C open for an additional five years.

At present rates, this threshold of warming, beyond which scientists classify the changes as “dangerous”, will be reached in 2017, but efficiency could push this back to 2022.

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