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Home > Innovation and New Technology > Issues > Hydrocarbons and Sustainable Development

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Hydrocarbons and Sustainable Development 

Listen to the Eco-FilesOil companies are often perceived as having reputations as large, money-hungry conglomerates more concerned about revenues than ecological and sustainable development. But oil companies are starting to realize that the current oil reserves will not be here for much longer.

Sustainable development in its most simple form means operating in a way that is in sync with the resource's ability to regenerate itself. All hydrocarbon resources are classified as non-renewable resources, which means that these reserves will not regenerate anytime in the near future. After all, our oil and gas reserves took billions of years to form!

Drilling Rig

Because our oil and gas reserves are rapidly depleting, oil companies have to start adapting and diversifying in order to stay profitable. Different energy sources are the key to survival, and that means moving into uncharted territory for oil companies, including hydro and nuclear power. Shell is one of the first oil companies to become actively involved in sustainable development. Once the oil company with the worst reputation in terms of environmental and social issues, Shell has had "an epiphany" and has revolutionized the way they do business to incorporate the the principles of, among other things, industrial ecology. Industrial ecology means that one person's waste is another person's fuel. This way they hope to save money and reduce the negative impact they have on the environment.

Shell is interested in reducing their ecological footprint while boosting revenues, but is it morally wrong to profit from protecting the environment? Some would argue that Shell is only reengineering their company to make more money, not because they have an environmental conscience. Listen to the accompanying EcoFile to hear Anita Burke, Shell's Sustainable Development Coordinator, and her take on sustainable development. 

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