The 2nd WPC Youth Forum "Energise Your Future" took place in Paris, France from the 18-20 November 2009 with over 1200 young people attending. The debates were supplemented by the "facebook type" online network EnergiseMyNetwork with over 2000 young people participating.
A reality check on tomorrow's energy landscape
An ethical and sustainable industry: Making it happen
Tomorrow's leadership, matching our skills to the challenges
What do young people really think about the energy industry and its role in achieving a sustainable future? What are their expectations for energy over the next fifty years?
Over 1200 attendees from 108 countries spent three days in Paris from 18-20 November to discuss the future of the energy industry and their role in it. Nothing unusual in that – except that eighty percent of the attendees were less than 35 years old. This was the next generation, the young professionals and students, who got together for the 2nd WPC Youth Forum under the heading 'Energise Your Future'. Initiated by the World Petroleum Council and its French National Committee, young people were challenged to present their views and to create an international forum for an open exchange between the generations to address the challenges for our future energy.
"Young talent, knowledge and perspectives are vital for the world to solve our future energy challenge," said WPC President Dr. Randy Gossen when launching the initiative in December 2007. "Youth is one of the key issues for the 60 member countries of the World Petroleum Council (WPC). WPC recogises their significance to the future of the petroleum industry and the importance of giving the young generation scope to develop their own ideas, talents and competencies to create viable solutions for the future of our world. We believe that young people are our industry's greatest spokespeople and must be involved in crafting the future, not just inheriting it".
The young professionals on the programme committee focused on four key areas: sustainability, future energy outlook, ethics and social responsibility and future leadership. Total's CEO, Christophe de Margerie, called on everyone during the opening of the Youth Forum to "think in the future". He said that there will be a need for all types of energy – carbon and non-carbon - in the coming years. And added "We cannot look at either growth or global warming, but must do both by finding solutions for our future energy needs without burning our systems." De Margerie cautioned that "we do not have the answers yet but we are working in the right direction to bring more energy and more growth to everyone." Paal Kibsgaard, President of Schlumberger's Reservoir Characterisation Group, agreed with the sentiment and explained that "hydrocarbon is as much a part of the sustainability solution as it is of the sustainability challenge."
Gérard Mestrallet, CEO of GDFSuez, gave the young people the advice to "Take responsibility: economic responsibility, social responsibility and environmental responsibility." This was seconded by his Senior Vice President for Exploration and Production, Didier Holleaux, who added: "Take risks. Be proud. Tell others to join this sector and make a difference. I am passionate. I want you to be passionate about what you do, too!"
Responding to one of the probing questions from the young audience, CGGVeritas CEO Robert Brunck, candidly agreed that his generation has not had to face a real world crisis in his life time. But he warned: "We are heading that way now." So he made a promise: "I will not sit back and relax. As a CEO you can count on me!" From Schlumberger and GDF Suez came practical commitments to further address diversity in their companies and to help women achieve technical distinction in the field a major prerequisite to move up the career ladder in the engineering field. Didier Holleaux admitted that this industry was not considered sexy but worse that it was sexist and vowed to address that from within.
Jeremy Rifkin, who advises a number of governments on energy, climate change and economic issues, and Dominique Moïsi, Harvard Professor and an international relations specialist, provided thought provoking insights with their views of the critical issues of climate change and geo politics.
Bruno Wiltz, President of AFTP and Head of the French National Committee for the World Petroleum Council, expressed his delight with the results of the event and recognized the efforts of the organizing committee, the sponsor input and his team at AFTP. They were extremely pleased with the high quality of the contributions from the young people, many of which had already participated in the discussions on the online network at www.energiseyourfuture.com in the months running up to the event. WPC's President, Dr Randy Gossen, promised to keep the network going for further exchange between the young people and to continue the dialogue at the 3rd WPC Youth Forum in India next year which will focus on the South East Asian region.
Many of the young people had already participated in the online discussions and continued their exchanges in the breaks and at the Knowledge Cafes where young Chinese geologists could be heard talking about climate change with Japanese process engineers and Russian PhD students, while Brazilian petroleum engineers compared offshore experiences with their young Angolan counterparts. The attendees described the meeting as "impressive, innovative and productive". "We really enjoyed the frank and direct discussions – it was the first time that we were able to share our concerns and ideas so openly" commented a group of young professionals.
"This event is a strong indicator for a truly promising future" said Randy Gossen from WPC. He challenged the young audience to take full ownership for the future of the energy industry. "In order to deliver energy to all we need an injection of youth energy," he added. "They can do so through three key factors: the sharing of knowledge, choosing and adapting technological solutions and by challenging conventional wisdom and thinking outside the box."