Big-Oil CEO Faces Failure by Keeping His Eyes Closed about Global Warming

Head of Oil Company that’s Most at Risk Of Declining Value

From Oil & Gas Is Burying His Head in the Tar-Sand About It

Eric Zuesse

According to the landmark study of the impact that the rising world concerns about global warming will have destroying the market-value of oil company stocks, no large oil company is as vulnerable as Norway’s Statoil, but Statoil’s head says that he must drive his firm, and implicitly therefore Norway’s economic future, down the drain of this declining market-value. His response to the challenge, he says, must be to drive his corporate ship even straighter into the coming economic abyss for fossil-fuels firms.

He says:

«Many people want Statoil to invest in all types of renewable energy activities. Often with no concern for whether the company can achieve realistic profitability within a reasonable time span. It is an easy stand to take for people who are under no obligation to run a profitable business. But I know who will be blamed if Statoil decides to invest five billion Norwegian Kroner in something which is «in» today, but turns out to be a fiasco in five years’ time,»

The headline and sub-head of that article is: “Helge Lund uncertain about Statoil’s green future: It is not given that Statoil will become a green company.” It was published on 21 August 2010, in the Norwegian newspaper, Stavanger Aftenbladet.

The reporters at Aftenbladet  wrote: “He believes that one of the most important tasks for the years ahead is to reduce the cost of renewable energy.” But nothing indicates that his firm (the one firm that’s the most at-risk of a big global-warming market-value hit) should hotfoot the way into this “green” direction — switching away from investing in oil and gas, to investing instead in renewable energy. Exactly the contrary, in fact. Statoil’s President/CEO said:

«The question is: Are we the right company to handle these challenges? Or should we concentrate on our role as an oil and gas company and instead focus on CO 2 cleaning and the cleanest production possible?»

In other words: He wants to lead in improving fossil-fuels production, not lead in switching to greener types of energy-production and sales, which will be gaining from the switch away from fossil fuels — gaining from the transition that otherwise threatens to destroy his company, and the world.

Under his leadership of Statoil, “Statoil purchased the oil [tar-]sand area in Canada in 2007,” and he said in 2010 that he didn’t know back then “that the oil sand is dirty and emissions from production sky-high.” He somehow hadn’t yet figured that out, though it was common knowledge at the time.

His name is Helge Lund, he’s 52; and Statoil’s owners (two-thirds of which are Norway’s taxpayers) are paying him $13.8 million annual compensation, for this type of leadership. His taxable income in 2008 was reported to be £ 9,896,202, or around $16 million. His net worth (wealth) was reported then (in his 4th year as CEO) to be £ 17,759,081, or about $30 million. The equalitarian Norwegian culture has objected to his high pay, but he justifies it by saying he’d make ten times as much in America. So, he thinks he should instead be getting $138 million per year. (It’s no wonder, then, why the CEO class love America, which pays them those bloated compensations while the U.S. is descending to third-world status.)

He was the foreign and security policy adviser to the Conservative Party (Norway’s equivalent of America’s Republican Party, or Britain’s Tories) during 1988-1990.

During the years since his 2010 interview in Aftenbladet, his views have not noticeably changed. On 25 August 2014, he gave a speech. His company posted it online, bannering, “‘A sustainable energy future’ – Helge Lund, CEO of Statoil, ONS 25 August 2014.” He opened with a greeting: “Your Majesty, Prime Minister, Excellencies, distinguished guests, dear colleagues and friends in the oil and gas industry.” He observed (and this is the google auto-translate version): “Our competitiveness is under pressure. For not so very long ago an oil price of $ 100 per barrel would have given reason to pop the champagne cork. [However,] now, there is reason for concern. During the last decade, oil prices almost tripled from around $40 to around $110 per barrel. But the increasing complexity and greater risk have led to increasing investments, cost increases and declining returns.” Then, he noticed, from out of nowhere (as if Al Gore and others hadn’t been screaming about it for decades already): “Lately, the notion that we live in a ‘carbon bubble’ caught on. The logic here is that we have more carbons than we can afford to burn. So, if the international community is committed to solving the problem of climate change, those who invest in fossil fuels [are] being hit hard, as the cost of [to] investors or [else to] the environment, or both, are too high [to sustain the pay of himself and of people like himself]. But any meaningful analysis of how we are to meet the world’s energy needs, including those which require that we achieve climate goals, ends up with the conclusion that oil and gas make up a large part of the future energy mix.” Oh, really? Yes, just plow ahead, that’s his conclusion.

And that’s about it. The head of the oil company that will plunge the most from the world’s growing recognition that global warming is real and is horrible, reluctantly acknowledges that his shoes are beginning to fit too tight. And he blames the public — the very people whom he and other oil-oligarchs have spent billions to keep in the dark on the subject — but he also spreads the blame to those other oil firms, his competitors. “The current political climate is not helping to make this transition possible. That is why I will ask the industry to engage actively in dialogue about new policy. And that is why the message of the political leaders in the world when they gather next month at the UN climate summit in New York, is clear. We need a global carbon price.”

Finally, at least, that. But still, his company is pouring more money into exploring for more oil, that’s never going to be burned, because the planet already is starting to.

How large should this man’s annual pay-package actually be? He thinks he should be paid more.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,  and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.



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  • kimyo

    do you get paid by the word? honestly, you write like a sophomore with two 10 page term papers due in the morning.

    this global warming nonsense has to stop. what we face is much more serious, and has nothing whatsoever to do with carbon emissions. a cooling planet is a far greater threat than a warming one.

    the science is not settled, and the data being used to set public policy is fraudulent:

    Bureau of Meteorology ‘altering climate figures’

    Dr Marohasy has analysed the raw data from dozens of locations across Australia and matched it against the new data used by BOM showing that temperatures were progressively warming.

    In many cases, Dr Marohasy said, temperature trends had changed from slight cooling to dramatic warming over 100 years.

    BOM has rejected Dr Marohasy’s claims and said the agency had used world’s best practice and a peer reviewed process to modify the physical temperature records that had been recorded at weather stations across the country.

    It said data from a selection of weather stations underwent a process known as “homogenisation” to correct for anomalies.

    this is the real problem: Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we’re nearing collapse

    The first stages of decline may already have started. The Global Financial Crisis of 2007-08 and ongoing economic malaise may be a harbinger of the fallout from resource constraints. The pursuit of material wealth contributed to unsustainable levels of debt, with suddenly higher prices for food and oil contributing to defaults – and the GFC.

    The issue of peak oil is critical. Many independent researchers conclude that “easy” conventional oil production has already peaked. Even the conservative International Energy Agency has warned about peak oil. Peak oil could be the catalyst for global collapse.

    as usual, you’re looking in the wrong place for a solution to the wrong problem. your quaint notion that the democratic party would pony up an impeachment hearing is just about as sensible as the expectation that an oil company exec will about face and start shooting out butterflies, unicorns and anti-global warming fairy dust.

    global temperatures have been flat or in decline for 16-19 years now, depending on if you’re looking at satellite or ground based data.

    Robust Measurement of the Duration of
    a Trendless Subsample in a Global Climate Time Series

    The IPCC has drawn attention to an apparent leveling-off of globally-averaged temperatures over the past 15 years or so. Measuring the duration of the hiatus has implications for determining if the underlying trend has changed, and for evaluating climate models.

    The IPCC does not estimate the duration of the hiatus, but it is typically regarded as having extended for 15 to 20 years.

    ….. of the 114 model simulations over the 15-year interval 1998 to 2012, 111 predicted warming. …..

    Hence there is a need to address two questions: 1) how should the duration of the hiatus be measured? 2) Is it long enough to indicate a potential inconsistency between observations and models?

    feynman on what happens when the observations don’t match the theory:

    In general we look for a new law by the following process. First we guess it. Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right. Then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess
    is. It does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is – if it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. That is all there is to it.

    • cettel

      The only link ‘kimyo’ gives that is even slightly relevant to the question of global warming is
      “Robust Measurement of the Duration of a Trendless Subsample in a Global Climate Time Series,” which indicates that global temperatures were rising rather steadily between 1920 and 2000 but have remained unchanged during the past 14 years. However, the time-frame during which global temperatures have been rising goes back to about 1800, and so a stable stretch of about 15 years during the past 200+ years is nothing remarkable nor at all disconfirmative of the 97+% of professional climatologists who agree that there has indeed been global warming and that the accumulation of global-warming gases in the atmosphere is the reason for it. ‘kimyo’ can continue to believe the oil-and-coal-and-gas industries’ propaganda to the contrary, but his pretense that he is at all scientific in his view is ludicrous, and false. His view is based on the expenditure of around a billion dollars per year in just the United States alone by the fossil-fuels oligarchs, not on the scientific findings, which are extremely clear. A 97+% professional scientific consensus will be more credible than propaganda-bought opinions held by suckers, any time.

      • kimyo

        A 97+% professional scientific consensus will be more credible than propaganda-bought opinions

        credibility is not the issue at hand. accuracy is. falsifying data, be it in the gdp or libor or employment or global temperatures leads to bad public policy, benefiting the 1%. do you really think that koch industries will suffer as a result of carbon legislation?

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    • I stopped reading after the first paragraph was a personal attack. Talk about “sophmoric”. If you want to be taken seriously, write seriously without opening with a personal attack.

      • kimyo

        you gotta admit though, i mean be real, this guy doesn’t operate under the mantra of ‘never use seven paragraphs where one will suffice’. have you read his posts here?

        his failure to communicate diminishes washington’s blog.


    OOPS, Myth Busted on warming! June 24, 2014 The Scandal Of Fiddled Global Warming Data

    When future generations try to understand how the world got carried away around the end of the 20th century by the panic over global warming, few things will amaze them more than the part played in stoking up the scare by the fiddling of official temperature data. There was already much evidence of this seven years ago, when I was writing my history of the scare, The Real Global Warming Disaster.

    But now another damning example has been uncovered by Steven Goddard’s US blog Real Science, showing how shamelessly manipulated has been one of the world’s most influential climate records, the graph of US surface temperature records published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).


    Antarctic ice keeps growing as alarming media report collapses June 10, 2014

    The facts keep putting the lie to the global warming campaign’s attempts to scare the world over Antarctica. There’s much more from Marc Morano at Climate Depot. Southern ice just keeps on growing, setting record after record. Our warming propaganda pals would like to pooh-pooh all that ice, imagine what they’d say if the ice were shrinking instead of piling up?