By Daniel Canty
The next 30 years of energy starts with oil and gas.
The biggest gains for cleaner energy and lower emissions will come not from algal blooms, but from efficient harnessing of the energy in oil and gas.
As industry leaders and technology firms converge on Abu Dhabi in January for the World Future Energy Summit the temptation will be to wax lyrical about the virtues of solar, wind and biofuels as solutions to the world's energy and climate problems.
Great leaps are being made in the clean and renewable energy sector, and the leading role Abu Dhabi is playing by funding the world's first carbon neutral city, Masdar, should not be downplayed. If ever there was a time for eco-trumpet blowing, then the WFES is indeed that week.
However, given that the world is facing a huge uphill energy challenge in the next 20 years, upstream and integrated oil and gas companies alike should use the summit to explore the more practical, and much more significant, technology gains in carbon capture and sequestration and cleaner burning fuels. Shell Qatar should be centre stage for its Pearl GTL project. With five out of the world's six billion people still without reliable and cheap energy it is all too easy for the lucky few to extol the merits of renewables and chastise those who turn oil and gas into energy.
The truth is that achieving major reductions in carbon emissions cannot be achieved in the short and medium term without a bigger commitment to gas.
Asia and South America's coming energy demand boom aside, oil's many derivatives, from plastics to lubricants cannot be economically replaced, (though synthetics are getting better), and nor will the world's aeroplanes, cars and ships be whizzing around the globe after a thirty-minute recharge anytime soon.
The European supermajors have been extolling their green and clean credentials for years now, and the US giants are mobilising their PR machine to the same end now. Middle Eastern firms must seize 2010 as an opportunity be loud and proud of their gas developments, and what better platform than the WFES? See you there.
Daniel Canty is the editor of Oil & Gas Middle East.