A former consultant to major oil and gas companies has been appointed as David Cameron’s top advisor on energy and environment policy just 10 weeks before the prime minister is set to attend the UN climate change conference in Paris in December.
Stephen Heidari-Robinson will be Cameron’s lead environment advisor and liaise with senior ministers across Whitehall. The only problem is he appears not to have any experience in environment or climate change policy.
Up until now, Heidari-Robinson was vice president for the oilfield services company Schlumberger Business Consulting's UK office where he advised companies including BP, Shell and Chevron.
A quick scan online will show that he graduated from Oxford, speaks Persian, and has 10 years of experience consulting with oil and gas companies. But apart from that, Heidari-Robinson’s name remains relatively unknown. So, what else do we know about him?
1. Oil & Gas VP
Heidari-Robinson is from Guiseley, a small town in Leeds and has worked for Schlumberger Business Consulting (SBC) since 2013. According to its LinkedIn description, SBC was set up in 2004 “to help oil and gas companies achieve dramatic performance improvements and sustained growth”. Until recently, SBC was owned by Schlumberger, the world's largest oilfield services provider. On August 17 it was announced that SBC had been acquired by Accenture, a multinational management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company.
2. What's Schlumberger?
Schlumberger itself currently employs around 100,000 people across 85 countries. And while it’s the largest oilfield services provider, it doesn’t actually own any oil or gas fields itself. Its main rival in the field is Halliburton.
As the Guardian describes: “It works with every major international oil company, and directly for most of the petrostates – including Saudi Arabia, Libya, Russia and Turkmenistan. It operates in the most difficult areas, whether politically, logistically, or technologically, and it is a world leader in the technologies required to get fossil fuels out of the ground – with 36,000 patented ways to help its clients do just that. And it does all of this while staying well out of the limelight.”
Blaming a decline in drilling activity, the company has cut a total 20,000 jobs between January and April of this year. Also, in March 2015, the company was fined $232.7 million by the US Justice Department for violating sanctions on Iran and Sudan.
And, remember that supposed ‘oil bonanza’ discovered near Gatwick Airport in April? Well, Schlumberger helped to boost shares of independent driller UK Oil and Gas, when it issued a June report suggesting there could be 270 million barrels of oil per square mile at Horse Hill, in the Weald basis near the airport.
3. McKinsey & Company
Prior to Schlumberger, Heidari-Robinson worked for American multinational management consulting firm McKinsey & Company as the head of its organisation and National Oil Company services lines in the oil and gas practice between 2005 and 2013. According to professional search engine website Contactbee, at McKinsey Heidari-Robinson “helped companies, primarily in oil and gas and utilities, to improve their organizations in order to deliver greater value in oil and gas, I served one super major, one of the world's leading national oil companies, four independent exploration and production players, and three pure-play explorers.”
4. Government Experience
Heidari-Robison has worked for the UK government before and has expertise in the Middle East and Asia. Between 1997 and 2003 he served as a fast-stream civil servant in the UK Ministry of Defence. Here, he focused on the Middle East and Central Asia. He has also worked at organisations which work closely with government including as secretary for the Pakistan Britain Trade and Investment Forum and as UK secretary for the UK-Japan 21st Century Group.
5. Social Media
This is Heidari-Robinson’s Twitter account. However, so far he’s not big on Twitter – with just five tweets it seems like the only reason he set up the account was to complain about lost luggage on a British Airways flight at the end of August. But given the timing of the account’s set-up and his appointment to No.10, it’s likely he might start tweeting more. So far, this is the only tweet he’s favourited:
Photo: Number 10 via Flickr