Energy summit pits US against Europe

The US energy secretary blasted renewable fuels champions on Wednesday while the head of Royal Dutch Shell Plc urged the energy sector to focus on global efforts to cut carbon emissions, reflecting a yawning trans-Atlantic gap on climate issues.

Speaking at the CERAWeek conference in Houston, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden outlined an ambitious plan to reduce the Anglo-Dutch company’s carbon footprint and expand in renewables, and called on others to follow.“The energy landscape is changing fast. So we must change, where change is what the world needs,” van Beurden said.

Shell and European peers including BP Plc, France’s Total SA and Norway’s Statoil are becoming increasingly active in low-carbon energy and are vocal supporters of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Until recently, climate has been less prominent in strategy presentations from U.S. rivals Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp.

US energy secretary Rick Perry struck a starkly different tone, blasting the 2015 agreement to limit global warming. Perry said it was “immoral” to say people should live without fossil fuels.

“We are passionate about renewable energy. But the world, especially developing economies, will continue to need fossil fuels, as over a billion people on the planet live without access to electricity,” Perry said.

Perry extolled growing US energy independence, as a boom in onshore shale drilling led to a rapid growth in oil as well as natural gas, the least polluting fossil fuel. The rise of gas at the expense of dirtier coal helped the world’s biggest economy sharply reduce its carbon emissions over the last decade, as gas displaced much domestic coal demand.

Shell is moving to meet its targets to halve carbon emissions by 2050. Steps include limiting emissions from operations and boosting natural gas production to reach 75% of company oil and gas output.