John D. Hofmeister, former president of the Shell Oil Company, embodies the environmental shift that is needed in international energy policy to adress climate change. In less than a year, Hofmeister has gone from presiding over a mighty oil company to head an organisation that promotes grassroots activism as the most important weapon for environmental change.
This 180 degree turn could understandably raise some eyebrows but Hofmeister insists that he has no interest in any particular fuel source, that he is not running for any office, and that affordable energy is a “human right”.
Hofmeister, one of the keynote speakers at Beyond Kyoto, has recently formed the non-profit group Citizens for Affordable Energy with the aim of creating a national grass-roots effort to address energy concerns in the USA.
The group’s principles are primarily to educate citizens and government officials about pragmatic, non-partisan affordable energy solutions, environmental protection, energy alternatives for infrastructure, social cohesion and quality of life.
Hofmeister’s energy ‘plan’ is based on what he calls “the four mores”: More energy from more sources, more technology for efficiency, more environmental protection and more infrastructure.
Dependency on oil
Hofmeister discussed the overwhelming U.S. dependence on import oil, of which a staggering 35,000 litres are used by Americans every single second, making the US the largest global consumer of energy.
He insists that building new energy infrastructures and using energy from a wider variety of sources will create commercial opportunities. He used the scientifically controversial carbon capture initiative as an example. The idea of compressing and storing carbon underground rather than releasing it into the atmosphere in itself creates emissions equivilent of 25 tons of co2 for every 100 tons stored.
Hofmeister however argues that this will create more jobs and will help deal with the critical amounts of gas waste that the US currently produces.
Changing the conversation
Hofmeister’s main argument is the need to “change the conversation on the environment.”
Using Citizens For Affordable Energy as a vehicle he wants to take the case to a ‘grassroots level’, he says “as we have seen with civil rights, Vietnam and the Iraq war, if you take the case to the American people they will make it happen.”
Essentially Hofmeister implores that the environment is not an elite issue but decided upon by the public, “grassroots matters, what may occur will occur”.
Opportunity for change
In addition, Hofmeister is pushing for the creation of a Federal Energy Resources Board that focuses primarily on the allocation of future energy sources, new technology and new infrastructure.
The Board would be appointed by congressional law and staffed by a board of directors to ensure political stability and create long-term goals.
Hofmeister acknowledges that the creation of the board will not be easy, but given that the U.S. Democratic party are currently in control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate there is a ‘window of opportunity for change.”
By Portia Nicholson
Related stories: • Forests, not technology, are the best carbon absorbers
• Environmental groups: Carbon capture is a scam
Read about Citizens for Affordable Energy
Have a look at the curriculum vitae of John Hofmeister