Shell and Exxon's Most Important R&D Initiative

Oil company executives frequently complain about an inability to grow production due to a lack of access to many countries' oil resources.   Lack of access is in turn often caused by a misalignment of incentives.  Politicians, who control access, typically lack any legitimate means to benefit from the wealth generated by oil production.  Thus, there is either an incentive for some parties to disrupt production, as in Nigeria; or a lack of focused support, as in Argentina. 

If politicians could benefit directly from the creation of wealth, including the creation of wealth from oil, then the political class would have an incentive to increase oil production and thereby facilitate access.  In addition, and as importantly, it would reduce the scope for corruption as it would provide a legitimate channel to share oil revenues.  

Eli Duardo, of the free-market Mercatus Center at George Mason University, writing on the libertarian CATO Online Forum, addresses this issue with an article on Incentive Pay for Congress.  Duardo's defense of incentive pay is unnecessarily timid and lacks a deeper theoretical justification, but at least someone is writing about it.

If you're Exxon, Shell or BP, there is a bigger return on investment in such initiative, by two orders of magnitude, then anything you'll drill in Angola or Alaska.  This topic deserves the generous support of the oil majors.