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Exxon: no climate risk, so drill, baby, drill

Paul Hodgson on how Exxon’s actions on climate match up to its words

Here’s me thinking that the lack of finance for fossil fuel ventures from the World Bank and other major banks, with massive asset owners divesting and managers engaging, would dry up money for more oil. But then Trump gives US corporations a tax break and all of a sudden they are awash with capital.
A handful of days before it released its much vaunted climate risk report, Exxon Mobil announced that it would invest more than $50bn in the US over the next five years, citing the new tax laws as the action that freed up the money for the investment.

“Exxon’s $50bn in new mostly fossil-fuel investments dwarfs the firm’s $8bn in lower-emission energy solutions” – Edward Kamonjoh, 50/50 Climate Project

For a company that has newly-espoused climate change and which was accused lately by someone from ALEC of “green preening”, for a company that recently appointed a climate expert to its board and for a company that has released its first ever climate risk assessment, in which it claims that dealing with a low-carbon future does not present too much of a risk, it seems actions speak louder than words.
Reactions to the climate risk report itself went quickly from excitement that it had actually come out, to disappointment that Exxon appeared to think that there will be undiminished growth in demand for fossil fuels. In a Ceres press release, one of the lead filers of the resolution that led to the risk report, Edward Mason, the Head of Responsible Investment at the Church Commissioners for England, said: “Exxon has more to do on risk disclosure and setting out a low carbon business strategy.“We are particularly keen to see Exxon set emissions reduction targets for its own operations and for its product portfolio.”
Edward Kamonjoh, Executive Director of the 50/50 Climate Project said in an email: “Exxon’s $50bn in new mostly fossil-fuel investments over the next five years dwarfs the firm’s $8bn in retrospective investments in lower-emission energy solutions over the last 17 years by a factor of more than six. It is clear where the firm is placing its future bets – on continued development of non-renewable energy sources. These bets are in spite of Exxon’s own prognostication that renewable energy sources will account for nearly 40% of the growth in global energy demand by 2040 and the company’s recognition that solar and wind energy will collectively grow by about 400%.”
Kamonjoh pointed to the findings of its recent report on political spending as further demonstration that Exxon has not changed its real strategy at all, despite apparently throwing sops to concerned shareholders. The report claims that the company has worked to oppose clean energy initiatives in Ohio and to preserve fossil-fuel tax breaks in Alaska, pressed for the repeal of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) renewable fuel standards and has “reportedly opposed greenhouse gas emissions standards, working with other parties to take legal action against the EPA over the Clean Air Act,” said Kamonjoh in the email. It is also one of the largest lobby spenders, with almost $97m spent mostly at the federal level.
Today, RI reported on new research that highlights the broader “gap” between what corporates are doing on climate change, and what they are saying.