(note: I interviewed Mark Williams February 10, 2010. He passed away March 6, 2016)
Mark Williams is downstream director for Royal Dutch Shell, which means he oversees refining, marketing , trading, chemicals, logistics — every step involved in getting crude oil to the consumer. Shell provides about 10 percent of the world’s fuel supply.
Mark recognizes the environmental challenges we face with our dependence on fossil fuels, but he defends energy production as fundamental to prosperity and peace in the world.
I think the history of mankind has been moving ourselves further and further from the center of the universe, and the recognition that we are a smaller and less significant part of the whole than we’d like to think.
“Eighty percent of the world’s energy currently is produced by fossil fuels, which are a limited resource. Further, fossil fuels — combusted in the typical way we do it — produce carbon dioxide. It has become obvious that we have to move away from them.
We have to meet people’s legitimate needs for energy while we keep the planet from going bust as a consequence. This is one of the hardest things that humanity has ever faced. It’s a global problem, and the mechanisms for adjudicating things on a global scale are not strong. Without the right governance in place to allocate resources and manage costs, we face the potential for tragedy on a global scale.
With regard to peace, if developing people’s needs aren’t met, tensions will increase on a global scale. If global warming goes forward unabated, its effects will be felt unequally and create conflict. If nation-states focus on supplying their own security, when we finally pay the price for global warming, it will be much . more difficult and much more expensive.
There are no simple solutions. Exercising leadership, thinking about next steps, the next source of energy, and the next source of wealth and mobility, are important because it takes decades to change these systems. Ideas about proper governance, the role of the state, individual responsibility — all of this is converging. You can point to examples where that isn’t happening, but overall the pattern is quite powerful. The world is growing up, and we are thinking about the right way to underpin a peaceful society.”
Mark Williams full audio: