Greenwashing is Too Nice a Word for Fossil Fuel Companies

The world’s biggest fossil fuel companies are producing massive profits because Putin has invaded Ukraine. All of the biggest ones, like ExxonMobil, Shell and BP, etc., are advertising their Green Credentials by loudly claiming that these profits will be re-invested in renewables or that profits are necessary for making new investments in renewables.

Here are claims made on the first page of their websites:

ExxonMobil – “Climate solutions – ExxonMobil is committed to helping transform our energy systems and working to reduce emissions in the short-term while also working on advancing decarbonization solutions.”

Shell – “Achieving net-zero emissions – Working with our customers and across sectors to accelerate the transition to net-zero emissions.”

BP – “Our full year results and progress update show BP performing while transforming and leaning further into our strategy to accelerate investment in our transition and the energy transition while helping provide the energy the world needs today.“

… and yet only a tiny fraction of their investments is in renewables, while they continue to ramp up their profits and investments in fossil fuels.

Science magazine has published extracts from a study called “The Assessing ExxonMobil’s global warming projections” by G. Supran , S. Rahmstorf, and N. Oreskes stating that all the big fossil fuel companies were aware that global warming was a reality since the late 1970s and that fossil fuel products could lead to global warming with “dramatic environmental effects before the year 2050.”

The study states that even though the companies did know these facts, they still tried to convince the public that there was no causative link between fossil fuel use and climate warming. Supran and colleagues show that these companies, including Exxon, had their own internal models that projected warming trajectories consistent with those forecast by the independent academic and government models. What they understood about climate models thus contradicted what they led the public to believe.

The CEO of Exxon received USD 23 million in 2021 and board members at least €400 000 in annual pay. For sums of that size you will not become a turncoat and keep your job even though your company deliberately and knowingly is causing a global disaster.

Interviews by an individual Finnish board member of Exxon Mobil in the Finnish media provide no convincing evidence of a serious policy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Greenwashing is too nice a description of this activity. A better description would be that cruel and malicious greed is being evidenced by the companies, their CEOs and board members.

Even the FT agrees with such sentiments when they write this month (FT 10.2.23) that,” blockbuster profits are being reaped” by Big Oil raising serious doubts that they will ever really aim for decarbonisation.

Our very own Finnish lady board member at Exxon, mentioned above, told us on television this week that Exxon and other companies are set up to maximise returns to their shareholders, and thus we must suppose that they will continue doing exactly that.

Graphic: Company Logos from their sites

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