James Smith (Shell)

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Global warming.jpg This article is part of the Climate project of Spinwatch.

According to the Shell website:

James Smith was appointed Chairman of Shell UK in 2004, having joined Shell in 1983. Much of his early career was in upstream oil and gas. He lived for 4 1/2 years in Malaysia and Brunei and worked on Shell business in a number of Middle Eastern countries and in the US. He was head of technology in Shell Chemicals.
James is President of the Energy Institute and chairs the Advisory Board of the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership. He is on the boards of Opportunity Now and Race for Opportunity, the employer groups supporting gender and racial diversity in the workplace.
James has a degree in physics and is a chartered accountant. Before joining Shell he worked with Accenture.[1]

Before joining Shell Smith also worked with Ernst & Young and Arthur Andersen.

"We need a worldwide carbon trade"

A 2009 Independent newspaper interview with Mr Smith describes him as 'a standard bearer for corporate environmentalism' [2]

Speaking of his 'front row' appearance at the COP15 Copenhagen summit, he advocates a strong commitment which he (and many other large corporations who are now on the 'businesses for carbon trading' bandwagon) believes is necessary to drive an effective carbon market and resulting investments. Any attempt at green credentials, however, are immediately destroyed the article paraphrases his ideas that;

For Shell, a mature approach to climate change means sticking to large-scale process engineering and avoiding mass-manufacture – hence pulling out of windfarms, which need turbines, and solar power, which needs panels, and focusing efforts on biofuels and carbon capture and storage (CCS).[3]

Biofuels and Carbon Capture and Storage technology have been virulently critiqued by environmentalists [4] [5], partly due to the risk that their promotion would reduce the impetus and funding for development of more ecologically sound technologies such as wind-farms and solar power, which Shell demonstrate beautifully here.

Smith's argument for CCS marks a change in Shell's opinion of the technology since the World Economic Forum in Davos in Feb 2009 when Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer 'referred to CCS as an interesting technology with huge potential, but hampered by cost and lots of uncertainty...[which] could, at best, be a bridge to a future of renewable energy.' [6]

Smith goes on to promote biofuels, and denigrate electric vehicles, arguing that electric technology does not compare to petrol in terms of energy transfer.

Later he argues that it is too late for the free market to create an effective carbon market and advocates large scale investment of public money into the efforts of large energy companies to develop technologies, such as the UK government's £90 million investment into Carbon Capture and Storage in 2009. [7] [8]



See Shell and COP 15


  1. Shell website, Who we are, Leadership James Smith Accessed 03/02/10
  2. Sarah Arnott 'James Smith: We need a worldwide carbon trade' The Independent, 12 November 2009. Accessed 03/02/10
  3. Sarah Arnott 'James Smith: We need a worldwide carbon trade' The Independent, 12 November 2009. Accessed 03/02/10
  4. See Biofuelwatch [1] Accessed 03/02/10
  5. Greenpeace-reports 2008 False Hope: Why Carbon Capture and Storage won't Save the Planet, Accessed 28/11/09
  6. Chris Wright Davos Climate roundup Climatico, accessed 03/02/10
  7. Sarah Arnott 'James Smith: We need a worldwide carbon trade' The Independent, 12 November 2009. Accessed 03/02/10
  8. Nina Notman, 24 April 2009 UK carbon capture and storage gets government boost Chemistry World News. Accessed 03/02/10