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Last days of oil
1 March 1999
The head of yet another major oil company is speaking out publicly about the world's inevitable move towards renewables and cleaner burning fossil fuel. Mike Bowlin, chairman and chief executive of Atlantic Richfield Co (Arco), warned a month ago that crude oil-the basis of Arco's own earnings-may well go the way of coal and firewood. According to the Wall Street Journal, he said the world may be entering "the last days of the age of oil" and warned competitors to prepare for when, perhaps in 15 years, demand for oil begins dropping while alternative energy becomes more popular. The change in fuel use is inevitable, he said, because fossil fuels are being increasingly blamed for smog and are perceived as causing a range of environmental ills, whether that is the case or not. Coal similarly fell out of favour in the 1950s, he said, and although it is still used it is far less important. Even so, Arco will not shut down its oil fields and instead produce wind turbines and electric cars. The oil industry must create cleaner-burning fuels and broaden the use of natural gas, which he said is under-appreciated. Bowlin was speaking at a Cambridge Executive Associates conference in the oil capital city of Houston. Sir John Browne, head of British Petroleum, made waves some months ago by announcing that global warming could not be ignored.
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