All economic energy sources should be pursued to meet growing demand, but fossil fuels — natural gas, oil and coal — will continue to play the predominant role well into this century because of their scale, reliability and affordability, the CEO of ExxonMobil Corp. said last week.

In a special address to the 20th World Energy Congress in Rome, CEO Rex Tillerson called on the energy producing and consuming nations of the world to make a “renewed commitment” to meet global energy challenges.

“If we are to build a more secure future for our generation and those that follow, we must renew our commitment to the values of international trade and open markets,” Tillerson said. “Unfortunately, current conditions and emerging challenges have led some to pursue isolationist or protectionist energy policies, which could have severe consequences for the global economy and for global energy security over the longer term.”

Tillerson told the gathering that industry and policymakers are challenged by the need to supply growing global energy needs and address the risks of climate change at the same time. However, he said it could be done.

As an example, he noted that ExxonMobil has worked since 1999 to improve energy efficiency at its facilities and invest in cogeneration. In 2006, the company’s efforts resulted in the avoidance of 12 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, Tillerson said.

Just as all economic energy sources would be needed to meet growing demand, so too would a wide range of technology options be required to reduce global emissions, he said.

“The key to the innovation and creativity needed to address global energy challenges lies in free markets and strong international partnerships,” he said. “It is more important than ever today that industry, policymakers and civic leaders work together to support these important principles.”

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