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Oil execs seen rough path for alternative energy
Monday May 4, 2009, 11:50 am EDT

Survey: Shifting perceptions among oil execs over winners in alternative energy sector

HOUSTON (AP) -- Despite millions in new investments and President Barack Obama's push for clean energy technology, many oil and gas executives say mass production of renewable energy is not likely before at least the middle of the next decade, a new survey showed Monday.

Fifty-two percent of 382 petroleum industry executives surveyed by KPMG LLP said large-scale production of alternative energy sources will not be viable in the short term, at least not by 2015. Of those who believe such production is possible, 17 percent said the likely source is wind, 10 percent said biodiesel and 7 percent cited solar, according to the annual e-mail survey conducted in April.

Participants included executives for major oil companies, independent exploration and production outfits and other energy companies.

Based on their responses, there's been a significant shift in perception over the front-runner in alternative energy.

In a survey two years ago, 18 percent of executives said ethanol was the most likely renewable energy source for potential large-scale production, but it fell to 6 percent in the latest query.

"The results clearly show the momentum wind energy has gained as a clean energy solution," said Bill Kimble, who oversees the global energy institute at KPMG, the audit, tax and advisory firm.

Though it now accounts for slightly more than 1 percent of U.S. electricity production, wind was cited in the survey as the alternative energy source mostly likely to benefit as the Obama administration shapes its energy policy. Thirty-five percent said wind would be the biggest winner, followed by natural gas, biofuels and solar all with double-digit percentages.

Survey participants had clear choices for their picks as the biggest losers under Obama's policies: Coal at 42 percent and oil at 36 percent, even though fossil fuels are forecast to provide 80 percent of all global energy needs through 2030.

The president and his energy secretary, Steven Chu, have vowed to aggressively pursue policies aimed at addressing climate change, including a cap on carbon emissions.

Proposals have included a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system, which could allow companies or plants to trade emission allowances among each other to mitigate costs. Either would be costly for polluting companies.

Not surprising, only 8 percent of the executives surveyed said cap-and-trade is the best approach to counter global warming. Sixteen percent said the best solution is tax incentives for investing in renewable energy sources, while 15 percent favored a carbon tax.

Many oil and gas executives have said they're concerned the industry will be targeted to carry more of the cost burden than it should based on emissions levels. The potential for new taxes, they say, worries them too.

"There's an effort here at the moment to raise money from a segment of the business that is just deemed to be able to pay," Bill Klesse, chief executive of Valero Energy Corp., the biggest U.S. refiner, told Wall Street analysts recently.

Source: Associated Press

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