In 2019, former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took the stage at the world’s largest energy conference to announce an age of U.S. dominance after a decade of quick development made the United States the world’s top oil and gas producer.
Fast forward 2021, the oil industry is recovering from the worst recession it has experienced after measures to contain the dreaded virus stopped billions of people from travelling and put brakes on one-fifth of worldwide demand for fuel. The U.S. fossil fuel industry still hasn’t recovered after thousands of jobs were lost.
This pandemic has also accelerated the energy transition, disrupt a steady rise in fuel consumption that may have otherwise continued for several more years. The demand for oil may never recover from that hit. This year, the CERAWeek conference in Houston, Texas is entirely virtual and multiple panels are dedicated to the transition to low-carbon economy of the future, hydrogen technologies and climate change.
Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder, John Kerry, U.S. climate envoy and speakers from Amazon and renewable fuels giant Iberdrola are among the key speakers. The 2021 program includes oil leaders who typically appear at CERAWeek. They include Mohammed Barkindo, secretary general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and the chief executives of Exxon Mobil, Total, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum.
They will be focusing on energy transition. Barkindo will discuss what kind of a recovery oil and gas will have as future demand is challenged. Andy Jassy, who is set to become Amazon.com Inc’s CEO later this year, will be on a panel talking about reinventing energy. Vicki Hollub, Occidental CEO and Ahmed Al Jaber, United Arab Emirates’ minister of state, are scheduled to tackle cutting carbon emissions.
The conference was one of the first major global events to be canceled last year, in view of the pandemic which became uncontainable and made it impractical for thousands of people from 85 different countries at the conference venues.
Since then, many of the world’s known oil companies have set goals to shift new investments to technologies that will reduce carbon emissions to slow global warming. BP Plc of the UK has largely jettisoned its oil exploration team; U.S. General Motors Co, US auto giant, announced plans to stop making gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles in 15 years.
Oil companies are under rising pressure from shareholders, governments and activists to show how they are changing their businesses from fossil fuels toward renewables, and to accelerate that transition.