This week, ExxonMobil announced that it wants to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for its operating assets by 2050 and shared details as to how it will achieve this goal. This sounds like a good thing on the surface, but is it really? Many are sharing their thoughts on Twitter, and I have some also, but first let’s look at what Exxon said.
Exxon's new “net zero” claim excludes damage caused by their products when used
This is the same as a tobacco company promising all their staff will quit smoking and then expecting to be congratulated for having solved the lung cancer problem
Treat this like you'd treat that 🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/76eQWqdBvZ
— Ketan Joshi (@KetanJ0) January 18, 2022
In the company’s press release, it said that it’s taking a comprehensive approach that is centered on detailed Scope 1 and 2 emission-reduction roadmaps for major operating assets. The company noted that the net-zero ambition is in its “Advancing Climate Solutions — 2022 Progress Report,” formerly known as the Energy & Carbon Summary, and builds on its 2030 emission-reduction plans.
The first thing you see when clicking the link to Exxon’s 2022 progress report is a cautionary statement that the statements in the report are basically forward-looking. Here is a small section of the statement:
“Statements of future aims, ambitions, plans, events or conditions in this press release, including projections, plans to reduce emissions and emissions intensity, sensitivity analyses, expectations, estimates, the development of future technologies, and business plans, are forward-looking statements.
“Actual future results, including the achievement of ambitions to reach Scope 1 and Scope 2 net zero from operated assets by 2050, to reach Scope 1 and 2 net zero in Upstream Permian Basin operated assets by 2030, to eliminate routine flaring in-line with World Bank Zero Routine Flaring, to reduce methane emissions, to meet its emission reduction, divestment and start-up plans, and associated project plans could vary depending on the ability to execute operational objectives on a timely and successful basis; changes in laws and regulations including international treaties and laws and regulations regarding greenhouse gas emissions and carbon costs; government incentives; trade patterns and the development and enforcement of local, national and regional mandates; unforeseen technical or operational difficulties; the outcome of research efforts and future technology developments, including the ability to scale projects and technologies on a commercially competitive basis; changes in supply and demand and other market factors affecting future prices of oil, gas, petrochemical and future product offerings; changes in the relative energy mix across activities and geographies; changes in regional and global economic growth rates and consumer preferences; the pace of regional and global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and actions taken by governments and consumers resulting from the pandemic; changes in population growth, economic development or migration patterns; military build-ups or conflicts; and other factors discussed in this release and in Item 1A.”
So, in other words, if Exxon fails to meet its goals, its butt is covered by these wordy cautionary statements.
Once you get past the cautionary statement, then you land on a nicely designed webpage that paints Exxon as a company that is focused on moving to a lower-emission future. The problem, Exxon points out, is that this future depends upon “multiple solutions that can be implemented at scale to address some of the highest-emitting sectors of the economy. This is where we are focused, leveraging our experience and long history of meeting vast complex challenges.”
One key takeaway from the report is that Exxon is investing $15 billion in lower-emission opportunities.
“Investments will include projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing operations and increased investments in the Low Carbon Solutions business. The same capabilities, technical strengths and market experience that support base energy and chemical businesses will help drive commercial growth opportunities for carbon capture and storage, biofuels, and hydrogen.”
Exxon also says that it’s advocating for supportive policies, accelerating emissions reductions, and claiming that its 2030 emissions-reductions plans are consistent with the “Paris-aligned pathways.” The next thing in this report is a section to more links and downloads, including the full report, which you can find here.
Quick Glance At The ExxonMobil Net-Zero Report
In the report, Exxon stated that its ambition is to “achieve net-zero emissions from its operating assets by 2050 and is taking a comprehensive approach centered on developing detailed emission-reduction roadmaps for major operating assets. This ambition applies to Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions. It builds on the Company’s 2030 emission-reduction plans, which include plans to reach net-zero emissions in our Permian Basin operations by 2030, and ongoing investments in lower-emission solutions, including carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, and biofuels.”
Exxon said that its roadmap approach identifies greenhouse gas emission reduction opportunities and used its Permian Basin operations as an example.
“An example of an asset roadmap is ExxonMobil’s Permian Basin operations, where the company announced groundbreaking plans to reach net-zero Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030. With the support of proven technology and sound policies, the Company plans to electrify operations with low-carbon power, which may include wind, solar, natural gas with carbon capture and storage, or other technologies.
“The Company also plans to expand and accelerate its methane mitigation and industry-leading detection technology, eliminate routine flaring, upgrade equipment, and employ emission offsets, which may include nature-based solutions. Achieving net-zero emissions in the Permian Basin will be a major contributor to the Company’s efforts to support a lower-emission future, as the Permian accounts for more than 40% of ExxonMobil’s net U.S. oil and natural gas production.”
What I didn’t see in the ExxonMobil net-zero report was how it was going to meet its goals. Furthermore, the fundamental point that it skipped over was that it is creating a product that is contributing to the global heating and climate weirding that comes from increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Ketan Joshi, a climate and cleantech author and analyst, shared his thoughts on the ExxonMobil net-zero report in a Twitter thread. He noted that the new claim excluded damages caused by Exxon’s own products when they are used by buyers and compared it with a tobacco company promising to do its part to prevent lung cancer among its employees while still selling products that cause lung cancer.
Joshi shared two Medium posts that detailed his deep dive into Exxon. The first part is on making their product and the second part is on how their product is used. He pointed out that Exxon uses Scope 3 emissions to compare to the domestic emissions of a few countries. Yet Exxon’s focus in the report is on Scope 1 and 2.
Both are an excellent read and I agree completely. It’s the use of fossil fuels that is contributing to the climate crisis. However, we have to be realistic. The way our world operates is on fossil fuels. We need to shift that to renewables, and although many startups are making progress, there are still too many of us dependent on fossil fuels for more than just powering cars and trucks.
All of these thoughts aside, I think that Exxon needs to do more than share shiny reports that mimic shiny web pages. For us to believe that it genuinely cares about going net-zero, we need a product that isn’t fossil fuels. If Exxon was to invest billions into renewable energy, shift its focus onto renewables, and provide a detailed roadmap as to how it will shift from producing oil and gas to producing a viable way to help us shift from fossil fuels to renewables, I might be inclined to believe the ExxonMobil net-zero report.
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