The heads of two of the world's largest oil companies were at odds on the future of energy sources Monday at the opening day of the World Energy Congress.

With heavy security on hand one day after hundreds protested outside the Palais des Congres, the conference heard from Shell Oil CEO Peter Voser and Saudi Arabian Oil Co. CEO Khalid Al-Falih on Monday morning.

Voser's speech didn't focus on oil at all, but rather on the continued development of natural gas exploration.

He called natural gas an affordable and cleaner energy source than oil, and said that governments around the world need to get on board with what he called a natural gas revolution.

Voser said there is a risk of contaminating water supplies in the exploration of shale gas, but that the industry takes the proper precautions.

Al-Falih, on the other hand, insisted that the short-term focus should lie in the development of improving the efficiency of petroleum engines and rejected the idea that the world is prepared to step away from oil as its top energy source.

While there were few signs of dissent Monday, there were hundreds of people protesting outside the Palais des Congres on Sunday in an effort to send a message to thousands of international delegates attending the congress.

The official opening ceremony was held Sunday evening and the conference continues until Thursday. The event brings together more than 3,500 world leaders in the field of energy, including individuals from industry, governments, and international organizations.

Protesters, including members of Greenpeace, covered themselves in a sticky brown substance Sunday to make a visual point about the dangers of the world's dependence on oil.

The group of activists said they want more emphasis on developing wind and solar power.

Virginie Lambert, of Greenpeace, said the prospect of a future with a continuing dependence on oil is frightening.

"We have to go beyond oil," she said Sunday. "We cannot just go into more fossil fuel energies because it's bad for the climate and it's bad for the environment."

Later this week the congress will hear from the CEOs of Peabody Energy, Suncor Energy as well as the director general of Russia's state atomic energy corporation, among other speakers. On Friday there will be a roundtable discussion of Canadian energy ministers.

Source: CTV.ca

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