There must be something in the water. After Dame Alison Rose’s avoidable exit, now we have Bernard Looney’s. Whilst the details of the former are rather clearer than the latter, it does appear that the Irish exec would still be at the head of the oil major today if he’d been more open with the board the first time he was asked about his relationships with colleagues. That he wasn’t up-front guaranteed his exit sooner rather than later; the truth will usually out, after all.
Looney’s board now faces the unenviable task of finding a replacement on rather short notice. The obvious choice is a continuity candidate who pursues Looney’s strategy of going greener in an ‘and’ not an ‘either or’ fashion.
For Looney has been something of a trailblazer in the energy industry, even if he’s managed to irritate both shareholders and green activists alike.
For some of the former, he’s moved too far away from the high-return world of dirty energy. For the latter, predictably, he’s refused to move fast enough to turn an oil and gas giant into a renewable powerhouse.
The truth is he managed to navigate a challenging path and delivered a strategy that one can be relatively confident will pay off.
The truth is that the energy giants are vital to the transition to a cleaner environment. It will be the oil and gas majors that force down the cost of renewables and make it affordable for developing economies to wean themselves off what are currently cheaper fossil fuels; such places do not have the luxury of environmental choices when parts of the population remain on the bread line.
The energy giants have the expertise and the balance sheet to drive genuine progress; they’ll be more practical and pragmatic than governments and more effective than regulation. Who knows – somebody might even thank them for it one day.