Chevron CEO: If AOC's Green New Deal leads to 'honest' dialogue that's a good conversation to have

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Chevron Chairman and CEO Michael Wirth said he’s open to New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal as a conversation starter about how oil and gas companies should best reduce their impact on the environment while providing reliable energy.

The freshman congresswoman’s sweeping proposal is “an attempt to try and have a different conversation,” Wirth told CNBC’s Brian Sullivan from CERAWeek on Tuesday. “And if that leads to an honest conversation about how we balance energy supply for a growing world, economic development and the environment, I think that’s a good conversation to have.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s ambitious proposal includes generating 100 percent of the nation’s power from renewable sources, making all buildings energy efficient and eliminating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector within about 10 years.

Energy thought leaders at the CERAWeek energy conference this week in Houston are largely dismissing Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal as unrealistic and politically divisive. Instead, the discussions have largely focused on the kind of bottom-up, market-oriented solutions that the self-described democratic socialist dismisses as too conservative.

Wirth’s concerns centered around the world’s growing population, which is expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, and whether there will be enough reliable energy for that many people.

“There are seven and a half billion people on the planet today, a billion of whom don’t have electricity,” he said. “We need reliable, affordable and ever cleaner energy to support a growing population.”

Last week, Exxon Mobil and Chevron said they would boost their shale oil productionin the Permian Basin substantially, with the latter expected to more than double its output to 900,000 barrels a day in four years.

— CNBC’s Tom DiChristopher contributed to this report.

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