Chevron + Sierra Club: A Few Jabs, And A Surprise
If you haven't yet watched the video clip of Friday night's matchup between Chevron CEO David O'Reilly and Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope, then watch it now, because it's an oil leader versus environmentalist moment that won't soon be forgotten.
The exchange occurred during a debate in San Francisco, where about 500 people crowded into a hotel ballroom with Wall Street Journal deputy managing editor Alan Murray moderated the event. You can check out various reports in the San Francisco Chronicle, Reuters, and the Sierra Club's Scrapbook blog. You can also hear the entire debate on Sierra Club Radio.
I'll confess from the start that it wasn't exactly a smackdown—there was even a handshake involved—but there are clear areas of disagreement, as you can imagine, and well, we'll just have to prove O'Reilly wrong.
As for areas of common ground, the two men agreed that global warming is caused by human activity—a relatively recent acknowledgment coming from any petroleum-industry leader. (And when oh when will the deniers wise up?) They also agreed that renewable energy and energy efficiency are key to reaching reductions in carbon enough to offset climate change. They even agreed—with an on-stage handshake—to lobby Congress together on the need to wean the nation off of coal.
The time-line for curbing carbon emissions, however, was a major area of contention, with Pope reflecting our organization's position that human ingenuity and the human spirit can achieve a reduction of at least 80 percent by 2050. O'Reilly said that was unrealistic, and that even if this country rises to the challenge, we'd be lucky to reach a 20 to 25 percent reduction, and that it would more likely by 15 to 20 percent. He claimed that making every U.S. vehicle carbon-free would cut out only 34 percent of greenhouse gases, while a completely zero-emission power-generation system would eliminate only 40 percent.
In a high point of the debate, Pope criticized the efforts of the U.S. government 'to move toward solutions in a timely fashion, and O'Reilly said, "Well, if you can get the government to move faster, then good luck." To which Pope replied, "It would help if you would get out of the way." ( You can see that bit in the video clip.)
Read Carl Pope's own account of the debate on his blog, "Taking the Initiative."
It's important to add that among those attending the event were a group of demonstrators calling attention to Chevron's involvement in the devastating oil-related contamination of northern Ecuador's Amazon region. You can read more about their plight at TrueCostOfChevron.com.
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