Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Exxon and Carbon Based Fuels

There's an interesting article at CNNMoney on ExxonMobil. I was offered a job by Exxon when I got my BS but decided to go to grad school instead. I was quite impressed with the company but as the article indicates "it is not a fun place to work". Exxon is the epitome of capitalism in my mind - the most profitable company in the world. Some call their attitude ruthless or arrogant, but it is just no-nonsense business. I would trust their assessment of the future far more than anything I read from outside "experts".
  • Exxon doesn't think we are running out of carbon based fuels. They expect that even by 2100 carbon based fuels will account for 80% of our energy consumption. I think this is right on. Since 1973 the scarcity crowd had been warning we were running out of oil or that "peak oil" was occurring, yet each year new discoveries are made and new technology allows us to utilize more carbon based fuels.
  • Exxon doesn't invest in the "popular" alternatives because they are not cost effective. This is one that the environmentalist just don't get. Further, the hypocrisy of not supporting nuclear power plants (the only viable alternative to carbon fuels and cleanest) forestalls a switch away from carbon based fuels. And even though my company is putting its future into bio-based fuels these will remain non-competitive with carbon based fuels and inflate food prices.
  • Exxon sees the bigger risk that the price of a barrel of oil will drop, not that the price will go high and make alternative fuels competitive. The price of oil right now has nothing to do with the amount in the ground. It's all based on the political situation in the Middle East and the environmentalists ability to restrict domestic supply sources. The NIMBY attitude towards building refineries also contributes to the high cost of gasoline.

I had one commenter state that I was a "shill" for big oil. I have always been impressed by people or companies that create wealth for society. Even though I don't like to shop at Walmart, I am impressed by what they have done to create billions in wealth for our society and make route to market more efficient. Improved productivity helps us all lead better lives. Likewise, Exxon is so efficient that they keep the price of gas at lowest levels possible given the political situation. I have never been impressed by the critics that spend their time yapping about successful people and companies and failing to create wealth for society.

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