June 13, 2012 / 10:25 PM / in 6 years

Chevron ex-CEO sees U.S. oil imports for next 20 years

PALO ALTO, California (Reuters) - David O‘Reilly, the former head of Chevron Corp (CVX.N), believes the United States will be importing oil for at least the next two decades despite a recent surge in domestic production from newly developed shale basins.

While O‘Reilly was upbeat about the potential for supplying enough natural gas and coal for U.S. electricity, he said the country should worry about its transportation system given its reliance on oil - barring a technological breakthrough.

“I do believe that we will still be importing oil 20 to 25 years from now, and that is the one area of vulnerability we have in our supply system,” O‘Reilly, now chairman of the National Petroleum Council, said at an energy policy conference at Stanford University.

O‘Reilly, who was Chevron CEO for a decade and joined the boards of Saudi Aramco and engineering group Bechtel in 2010, said he saw potential for U.S. conversion of its abundant natural gas supply to liquids to power vehicle engines.

David Seaton, CEO of Bechtel rival Fluor Corp (FLR.N), told Reuters last month he also expected gas-to-liquid conversion to take off in the United States before exports because the economics of shipping liquefied natural gas would be severely altered if gas prices rise substantially from their current level near 10-year lows..

The conference at Stanford hosted by The Hamilton Project, an economic policy initiative launched by the Brookings Institution think tank, also heard discussions of LNG exports and the potential for developing cleaner energy sources when natural gas prices are so cheap.

    Well-known Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, rejecting predictions by fellow panelists that a shift in U.S. energy consumption would take decades, pointed to the general inaccuracies of forecasts that stretch so far into the future.

    “Whenever anyone says ‘in 2020’, shut your ears and ignore it,” he said.

    Reporting by Braden Reddall in Palo Alto; Editing by David Gregorio

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