More than two decades ago, the CEO of BP, one of the biggest oil and gas companies in the world – gave a speech to the 1997 graduating class at Stanford University.
In the speech, John Browne acknowledged for the first time the link between the fossil fuel industry and global warming.
Afterward, the American Petroleum Institute declared that Browne had “left the church.”
The speech won him – and BP – accolades from environmentalists and activists that lasted up until 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon disaster became the largest maritime oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.
But by that time, Lord Browne (he was knighted in 1998 and elevated to the House of Lords in 2001) had already left the company – and not by choice.
In 2007, he was outed as a gay man by the British tabloids. He resigned from his position at BP, and from a non-executive directorship at Goldman Sachs.
From a 2014 New York Times profile of Browne:
For Mr. Browne, the higher he rose in BP, “the more dangerous it would be to come out,” he writes, “because my ascent was accompanied by a rapidly expanding public profile.” He worried that any disclosure would damage his ability to negotiate with openly homophobic business and political leaders, including Vladimir Putin of Russia.
In 2015, he returned to the global oil business as executive chairman of L1 Energy.
In his latest book, he argues that engineers will save humanity from threats like disease, artificial intelligence and climate change.
We talk with him about his career and his latest book.
Produced by Paige Osburn.