ConocoPhillips, the fifth largest oil company in the world, is taking steps to address the problem of global warming, the first major US oil company to do so. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the company is implementing programs to develop alternative fuels and to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
In an statement released this week, ConocoPhillips announced it has joined the US Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of corporations trying to address the problem of climate change. The company also calls for legally binding caps on emissions of gases that many scientists say cause global warming.
In a recent meeting with reporters at Rice University here in Houston, ConocoPhillips Chief Executive Officer James Mulva made it clear that his company was joining the move to address climate change.
"We are doing this because we believe in it," said James Mulva. "We must recognize climate change and incorporate it into our facilities and our investment program."
ConocoPhillips is one of the five major international companies sometimes grouped together as big oil and blamed by many environmental activists for opposing efforts to address climate change.
Dallas-based Exxon-Mobil, the world's largest oil company, remains strictly focused on petroleum and has funded research that questions the human impact on global warming, but the other members of the big oil club, California-based Chevron, London-based BP and the Hague-based Royal Dutch Shell have already begun programs to develop alternative fuels, including renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel.
ConocoPhillips has doubled research spending on alternative energy to $150 million and has invested an equal amount in methods of capturing carbon dioxide emissions. The company is also funding a $22-million project at Iowa State University to develop bio-fuels over the next eight years. CEO Mulva says alternative fuels are unlikely to replace most of the gasoline used in vehicles, but they could be part of a more diversified mix of fuels.
"Gasoline, obviously, is a superior transportation fuel," he said. " It is efficient, it is available. But, what we do need to do is develop all sources of alternative energy. It is relatively small at this time and even with dramatic improvement will continue to represent a relatively small portion of our energy source, 10, 20, 30 years from now, but we do need to develop the alternatives, renewables and other sources of energy."
But, above all, Mulva says, consumers in the United States need to reduce the amount of energy they are wasting.
"We need to conserve and make far more efficient use of our energy," he said. "The United States, I think, we have essentially about four percent of the world's population and we use 25 percent of the world's oil resources. Obviously, we can be far more efficient users of energy."
Environmental groups agree with that assessment, but many of them favor stronger measures than those being undertaken by ConocoPhillips. Groups advocating government action to curb greenhouse gas emissions say the company still lags behind companies like BP and Shell that have aggressively developed alternative energies that produce significantly less carbon pollution. Among the fuels ConocoPhillips views as alternatives to petroleum are such things as oil sands and oil shale, which are fossil fuels and produce the same amount of carbon emissions as oil.