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In Exxon’s Orwellian World, Decrease Emissions Manner Extra Oil Production


October 24, 2023

In the corporation’s model of Newspeak, “carbon emissions” technique whatever it needs—and any investment in renewables is lawful a facade.

Pioneer Pure Sources instruments advance Midland, Tex., on Wednesday, October 11, 2203. ExxonMobil Company agreed to aquire Pioneer Pure Sources Firm for $59.5 billion, its biggest takeover in additional than two a long time, because it seeks to alter into the dominant producer of shale oil. (Michael Ciaglo / Bloomberg / Getty Photos)


October 24, 2023

In Exxon’s Orwellian World, Decrease Emissions Manner Extra Oil Production

In the corporation’s model of Newspeak, “carbon emmissions” technique whatever it needs—and any investment in renewables is lawful a façade.

Which of the next is lawful?


  1. pledges to eradicate its carbon emissions by 2050.
  2. is dramatically increasing its oil and gas manufacturing.
  3. invests vastly extra capital in fossil gas fashion than in carbon emission reduction.

Whenever you occur to answered “the overall above,” congratulations! You will also maintain mastered the Orwellian world of Abundant Oil climate-talk about. Here is a world the build “carbon emissions” technique whatever you’ll need it to, the build investing in climate solutions is a façade, and the build world standards of living are forecasted to upward thrust the hotter it gets.

ExxonMobil is now not any longer on my own in practising a 21st-century model of Newspeak, the logic-defying lingo of George Orwell’s iconic contemporary 1984. Most oil majors, whereas pledging to accommodate carbon emissions, don’t maintain any plans to pass some distance flung from fossil fuels.

Recent Downside

However Exxon is in a class by itself, and no longer handiest attributable to it is the most treasured publicly traded vitality company in the field. Exxon’s deceptive climate pledges are industry as traditional for an organization that strenuously denied climate alternate for years, opposite to its get scientists’ findings. In addition they match properly with Exxon’s fresh holier-than-thou promoting campaign promising that its abilities will also help diversified industries lower carbon emissions.

The valid-world Exxon is the company that lawful bought shale oil producer Pioneer Pure Sources for $60 billion—its biggest acquisition because it took over Mobil in 1999—thereby increasing its fossil gas manufacturing by nearly 20 percent in one soar. The Exxon of the field of 1984 is the company dedicated to make catch zero carbon emissions by 2050, even whereas producing ever greater quantities of oil and gas.

The system to reconcile the 2?

The answer lies partly in the system Exxon defines emissions. In climate science, emissions are sorted into three buckets:

  • Scope 1 are emissions from an organization’s get operations, equivalent to its factories, stores, and vehicles.
  • Scope 2 are emissions from the manufacturing of electrical energy that an organization purchases. Lowering this procedure looking out for (or producing) energy from renewable sources like pronounce voltaic and wind.
  • Scope 3 are emissions from the manufacturing of products that firms aquire from suppliers (“upstream”) and from customer exercise of products (“downstream”).

In the fossil gas industry, Scope 3 emissions story for approximately 90 percent of the overall, as burning oil produces well-known extra carbon than drilling for it. However Exxon’s catch zero pledge is fastidiously worded to avoid any fresh of Scope 3 emissions. Exxon is promising handiest to create its get operations carbon neutral, including looking out for electrical energy, or producing its get, from renewable sources.

Exxon apparently sees a future the build the company’s drill rigs will crawl on tremendous pronounce voltaic energy whereas pulling up ever extra oil and gas, which will dump ever extra carbon into the ambiance when burned for gas. Here is what “catch zero” technique in Exxon language.

Exxon pretends to take care of the greater relate of emissions from its products by touting its investments in technological solutions like carbon take grasp of and storage, hydrogen, and biofuels. However perceive closely on the numbers in its most authorized annual file: Exxon plans to exercise an common of $2.8 billion yearly in emissions reductions over the next six years, or lawful 12 percent of its total annual common capital funds of $22.5 billion. Meaning the company plans to make investments seven times extra capital in fossil fuels and their byproducts than on reducing emissions.

Insufficient because it is, Exxon’s low-carbon spending leads the pack, as oil majors overall handiest exercise about 3 percent of their capital budgets on emissions reductions.

Exxon doesn’t hide its scheme to magnify its core fossil gas industry. “ExxonMobil is investing extra money to develop oil and gas manufacturing than any diversified U.S. company,” it boasts. Sooner than procuring Pioneer, it had forecasted an lengthen in manufacturing from 3.7 million barrels per day to 4.2 million by 2027—a aim it has already eclipsed by the fresh acquisition. Who knows the build this could occasionally also build its next target?

Exxon believes it is swimming with the tide, no longer towards it. The corporate acknowledges that carbon emissions should always be lower extra than two-thirds from their fresh price of 37 gigatons yearly to 11 gigatons by 2050 in yelp to restrict world warming to 2° C (3.6 ° F)—the restrict previous which world catastrophe looms.

However Exxon simply believes this is in a position to perhaps no longer occur. In 2050, “oil and natural gas…will mute be required to force severely wanted economic growth,” it predicts. No subject growth in renewable vitality and carbon take grasp of technologies, “oil and natural gas are mute projected to meet extra than half of the field’s vitality wants by 2050.” In jam of falling to 11 gigatons yearly, the oil huge believes emissions will most definitely be extra than twice that: 24 gigatons. And a huge half of that can come from Exxon itself.

Even though Exxon no longer denies that climate alternate is valid, it believes that weaning the field off oil would come at an unacceptably high impress. In a submitting earlier this 300 and sixty five days with the Securities and Alternate Price, the company said, “It is miles extremely no longer going that society would procure the degradation in world long-established of living required to completely make a scenario just like the IEA NZE [the net zero emissions simulation of the International Energy Agency].”

Since we’re warding off a climate cliff anyway, Exxon intends to bask in the stir as prolonged because it will. It plans to come $35 billion to shareholders in the construct of part buybacks over the next two years, whereas doubling earnings and cashflow over the next four years.

To be comely to Exxon, laying aside its Scope 3 emissions would require shutting down fossil gas manufacturing or investing vastly in technologies, mute largely unproven, to take grasp of and store the carbon released by burning oil and gas. A corporate strategic shift of that dimension would lead to a shareholder riot.

The valid goal to call out Exxon, and its brethren, is to acknowledge the straightforward fact that they’re going to by no technique pivot to low-carbon solutions as prolonged as they are able to create extra money from extracting and refining fossil gas. As prolonged as their fresh industry mannequin remains viable, they’ll pursue it relentlessly, and each gesture they invent to lull public fright about impending climate catastrophe will most definitely be insubstantial. Here is how free mission works.

The answer lies in restructuring the area alternate in fossil fuels to avoid wasting a impress on carbon that utterly reflects its environmental bills. Doing this, says a file from the Global Monetary Fund, would lift carbon emissions the overall system down to a stage that retains the earth from undue warming.

Even Exxon itself acknowledges that laws is the answer to unbridled fossil gas manufacturing and consumption: “Billions of alternative folks need reliable, sensible vitality daily. At the same time, that vitality exercise is contributing to CO2 emissions…. Effective [government] policy frameworks will most definitely be severe to gash world greenhouse gas emissions and meet society’s need for reliable and sensible vitality.”

However in preference to laying aside implicit fossil gas subsidies, the IMF file says, international locations are increasing them gradually. And without life like carbon pricing, firms like Exxon, in the occasion that they should always dwell on in aggressive markets, don’t maintain any chance but to continue extracting and refining fossil fuels.

So maybe in preference to scorning Exxon as a rampaging destroyer, we ought to pity it as a blind huge, forced to preserve digging society’s grave by the iron laws of unrestrained capitalism. And maybe in the Orwellian distortions of Exxon’s statements we can discern a faint deliver for help: “Live us, whereas there could be mute time.”

Brad Swanson

Brad Swanson is a associate in a socially responsible fund management company, Developing World Markets, and an adjunct finance professor at George Mason College. His opinions listed below are deepest.

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