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Six Petro Companies Now "Obsessed" with Oil Sands

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The world's major oil companies have a reserves replacement problem. No surprise there.

Now a new report from the clean energy activist group Oil Change International says the issue is about to change the fossil fuel industry.

Writing for the Vancouver, Canada-based news site The Tyee, energy journalist Geoff Dembicki interprets the OCI report, saying Big Oil's push to improve its reserves replacement ratio-- a key indicator that affects share prices-- is driving massive investment in Alberta's oil sands, and may odiscourage clean energy innovation.

"Green observers fear industry expansions, those underway and projected, could shred Canada's climate change commitments and accelerate a global shift to higher-carbon fossil fuels," he writes.

"Still, aggressive oil sands development appears to be one of the few viable growth strategies left for ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, ConocoPhillips and Chevron. These six energy giants are among the top-earning private companies on Earth. Yet their continued corporate existence, at least in its current form, is far from assured."

The author points out that 93 percent of the world's oil is controlled by national governments and state-owned fossil fuel firms, such as China National Petroleum Corporation. That reality is driving "the formerly dominant supermajors" to seek out riskier and riskier reserves, in ultra-deep waters or on the Arctic Ocean floor, or in Canada, one of the few countries still offering private sector access to its oil reserves. 

"The supermajors just don't have all that many options,"  Alexandros Peterson, director of research for the London-based think tank Henry Jackson Society, told The Tyee. "And so if you get boxed out of places like Venezuela -- or Angola by the Chinese -- you go after whatever you can get. The oil sands are one of those 'whatever-you-can-get' places." 

What does this mean for the future of clean energy? Read the full story, here.

POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.