oil companies

Oil companies will have to adjust to the advent of electric cars.

A 2040 ban on the sale in the UK of new cars run by diesel and gasoline engines should come earlier, says the chief executive of one of the world’s largest oil companies.

Ben van Beurden, the chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, said bringing forward the British ban would make it easier for companies like his to plan for the future.

“If you would bring it forward, obviously that would be welcome. I think the UK will have to go at a much higher speed than the speed the rest of the world can go,” van Beurden said, according to The Guardian newspaper.

He told the newspaper he expected different countries to move away from petroleum-powered cars and trucks at different times. But he does expect such a shift. His comments were reported last week.

According to Reuters, he also said it would be “foolhardy” for him to set binding targets for slashing his company’s carbon emissions, as some activists have called for. van Beurden has already set the goal of cutting Royal Dutch Shell’s carbon emissions by half by 2050, a much more ambitious plan than those of the company’s rivals.

“It would be somewhat foolhardy to put ourselves in a legal bind by saying these are the targets we will adopt,” he said.

van Beurden’s comments come as oil and other energy companies contemplate their role in a world that’s trying to control the carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.

In Britain, according to The Guardian:

The rise of electric cars, which the government is banking on to displace conventional cars and cut air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, poses a double whammy for oil companies.

As well as cutting demand for their main product – though how fast and how deeply is hotly disputed – the switch also threatens their petrol stations.

Shell has responded by buying electric car infrastructure firms and beginning to install charging points on forecourts, while BP last week bought the UK’s biggest electric-car charging network for £130m.