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Boss Of Royal Dutch Shell In The UK Describes Trump's Clean Energy Stance As 'Disappointing'

But says new US won't stop a global move towards cleaner fuel.

22/02/2017 17:34 | Updated 22 February 2017
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Sinead Lynch, top right, boss of Royal Dutch Shell in Britain, said Trump’s stance on new, cleaner forms of energy was 'disappointing'

The boss of Shell in the UK has labelled President Donald Trump’s stance on new, cleaner forms of energy as “disappointing”.

Asked whether Trump had cast doubt the need for a global transition to green energy, Sinead Lynch, country chair of Shell in Britain, told The Huffington Post UK: “It’s disappointing. Obviously what we really want is a collaboration and alignment across all governments internationally, regionally, locally.”

As part of a renewed on focus on fossil fuels Trump’s administration has promised to open new coal mines, deleted references to climate change from White House websites, and pledged to scrap Barack Obama’s 2013 climate pact.

It’s disappointing. Obviously what we really want is a collaboration and alignment across all governments internationally, regionally, locally. Sinead Lynch, Shell UK

But despite the president’s focus on oil and gas, Lynch said Trump won’t stop the global move towards cleaner energy.

“Within individual countries, individual parliaments, there might be a one step back, one step forward, but fundamentally the momentum [towards a low-carbon fuel economy] is there,” she said.

“If you look at the benefits to the US economy, the opportunities created by the energy transition, they exist today and will continue to grow.

“Fundamentally we don’t believe [Trump] is going to change the energy transition.”

Shell UK
Sinead Lynch, country chair of Shell UK, was speaking at the launch of the firm's new hydrogen fuel pump in Surrey

The comments could be seen as surprising given Shell’s core business still relies heavily upon the mining and refining of fossil fuels. 

In 2016, Royal Dutch Shell had a total revenue of $233.6 billion, making it the world’s largest oil company by that measure.

Yet in the same year, it provided new, cleaner energies with less than one percent of the investment given to its oil and gas division.

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
President Trump's energy policy includes scrapping a climate pact and renewing focus on fossil fuels

When asked by HuffPost UK whether she would describe Trump’s comments on climate change as a “step back”, Lynch added: “It’s probably best I don’t get into US policy.

“We would say all governments would look to the commitments under Cop 21 [the 2015 climate change conference in Paris].” 

Trump’s energy policies are among his most controversial. 

Within hours of Trump’s inauguration last month, the White House website was updated to reflect the new president’s stance on energy.

It includes a provision to end Obama’s Climate Action Plan, to open new coal mines, and to increase reliance on fossil fuels.

Video: ‘What a Donald Trump presidency means for climate change’

“The Trump administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans,” the website states.

While it describes “responsible stewardship of the environment”, Trump’s past remarks about climate change have caused concern.

And reports on Tuesday suggested Trump’s next executive orders would represent a further ‘U-turn’ on Obama’s climate policies.

Toby Melville / Reuters
Lynch said that Shell in the UK was investing in hydrogen fuel for vehicles as a means of 'energy transition' from petrol

Bet on hydrogen

Lynch’s comments came at the opening of Shell’s first ever hydrogen fuel pump in the UK.

As part of efforts to realise the so-called energy transition from petrol and diesel to low-carbon alternatives, Shell will open two additional hydrogen retail pumps across south-east England over the coming months.

Hydrogen fuel uses a mixture of electricity and water to produce energy for fuel cells inside vehicles. The technology does not produce greenhouse gases or harmful emissions.

The firm already has hydrogen fuel operations in California where it benefits from state subsidies on clean energy.

Lynch also confirmed the company is exploring opportunities for offshore wind power.

Yet Shell is no stranger to controversy either.

In 2015, global chief Ben van Beurden defended the company’s plans for exploratory drilling in Arctic waters near Alaska, despite fierce opposition from environmental groups.

At the time, van Beurden said the area had the potential to become one of the largest offshore oil fields, dwarfing even the biggest fields in the Gulf of Mexico.

But Shell ended its operations in the Arctic later that year as the company struggled to manage a downturn in world oil prices.

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