SAN ANTONIO—An Exxon Mobil Corp. official on Tuesday dismissed the growing calls by some nations to sharply curtail the use of fossil fuels, or even ban them altogether, as unfeasible.
“They can sit around in the dark and talk about how it worked out,”Ken Golden, commercial adviser for Exxon, said from the podium at an oil conference in San Antonio. He prefaced his comment by saying it was his personal view, and that it wasn’t Exxon’s official response.
Mr. Golden was giving a speech at the Unconventional Resources Technology Conference that looked at Exxon’s energy outlook to 2040, detailing long-term energy trends.
The Exxon official said the company is concerned about the risks climate change poses, and that it encourages the use of renewable and other alternative fuels. But he said, for example, that even while the use of wind and solar power will rise faster than any other energy source through 2040, those two will still amount to less than 3% of total energy use.
“There are billions of people who need to read, need to learn, need to improve their standard of living,” he said. “You simply cannot do this without fossil fuels.”
The fossil fuels of oil, coal and natural gas are expected to provide about 80% of global energy through 2040, Exxon said.
Growing concerns over carbon emissions’ impact on climate change have made fossil fuels—mainly oil, natural gas and coal—more unpopular than ever.
Some climate activists have been pushing for an eventual total ban on the use of fossil fuels, saying they should simply remain in the ground. Such ideas have gained traction in some Pacific Island nations that face coastal erosion and sea level rise due to climate change. Even oil-producing nations like Norway have discussed banning fossil-fuel-powered cars over the coming years.
Exxon is involved in a months long political and legal fight over whether it has long known about the dangers oil poses to climate change and the environment, but purposely misled the public or hid its findings.
Mr. Golden said that while Exxon’s 2040 outlook expects coal use to decline sharply, “oil will remain the world’s primary energy fuel,” and demand for oil and other liquids will grow by 20% from 2014 to 2040, it said.
That rising oil demand will come entirely from developing nations, he said, led by China and India. For example, while there are currently two cars per 100 people in India, this will quintuple to 10 cars per 100 people by 2040, he said. In the U.S., there are 60 cars for every 100 people.
“The risk to climate change is critical but so is raising the living standards for billions of people,” Mr. Golden said. “We have to do both.”
Write to Dan Molinski at Dan.Molinski@wsj.com