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UK: Shell 'selling suicide' by preferring tar sands to wind

by Terry MacalisterThe Guardian
May 21st, 2008

Shell was accused yesterday of "selling suicide on the forecourt" by pressing ahead with tar sands operations in Canada and continuing to flare off excess gas in Nigeria while pulling out of renewable schemes such as the London Array - the world's largest offshore wind scheme.

The accusation that Shell was irresponsibly adding to climate change was made by an unnamed shareholder at its annual meeting in The Hague after Shell chief executive Jeroen van der Veer insisted the company was doing all it could to meet rising demands for energy while reducing CO2 emissions. Shell would listen to all stakeholders but he warned "ultimately it will not be possible to meet fully everyone's expectations".

Linda Cook, Shell's executive director of gas and power, defended the decision to put its stake in the London Array up for sale. The economics did not meet the group's "hurdles rate", she said. In terms of unit costs it was "two and a half times cheaper to build onshore projects in the US" than to pursue the scheme off the Kent coast, she explained, insisting Shell remained committed to renewables.

Shell revealed two weeks ago that it was selling its 33% stake, much to the frustration of green politicians, campaigners - and even its partner E.ON, which signalled the retreat could kill off the scheme.

Caroline Lucas, Green MEP for the south-east of England, said the move had been "further proof that its media-friendly greenspeak is both dishonest and irresponsible", but Shell said costs had risen by 45% partly due to a series of planning and other delays.

Van der Veer pointed out that "we are not just active in wind, but also in hydrogen, thin-film solar and, of course, biofuels". He did not convince everyone, with a representative from Friends of the Earth Netherlands asking why Shell talked about sustainable fuels while the oil lobby in Brussels continued to push for "unsustainable" first-generation biofuels.
Malcolm Brinded, the exploration director, gave no reassurances that Shell would meet its commitment to end flaring in Nigeria next year, pointing out that the company was facing government funding and local security problems which had slowed down its work there.

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