Shell Picks Biofuels, Ditches Wind and Solar

A Shell ethanol storage tank—the company is focused on developing a new generation of biofuels.©

Royal Dutch Shell, one of the world"s largest oil companies and a relatively big backer of alternative renewable energy development in recent years, announced last week that it is dialing back its investments in wind, solar and hydroelectric projects. The company will instead refocus its renewables budget on developing a new generation of biofuels based on easy-to-grow non-food crops and on improving carbon capture and sequestration techniques and technologies—presumably to mitigate emissions from its controversial and energy-intensive oil sands projects in northern Canada.

Linda Cook, Shell’s executive director of gas and power, told reporters that many alternative energy technologies did not offer attractive investment opportunities presently. "If there aren’t investment opportunities which compete with other projects, we won’t put money into it," she said. "We do not expect material investment [in wind and solar] going forward." She added that biofuels is a better fit for the company, whose core business involves providing fuels, logistics, trading and branding.

Environmentalists differ with the oil giant. "Shell is backing the wrong horse when it comes to renewable energy—biofuels often lead to more emissions than the petrol and diesel they replace," the UK-based nonprofit Friends of the Earth reported. The group has been critical of Shell for featuring wind power prominently in its corporate advertisements when less than 1% of the corporate budget went to funding such developments. "Shell is at least being a bit more honest about the fact they are a fossil fuel company," the group added. "It has seen the limitations of the greenwash it was putting out a few years ago."

Sources:; Friends of the Earth