According to internal documents obtained by Bloomberg, America’s largest oil and gas corporation Exxon Mobil was planning to increase its 2021 greenhouse gas emissions by 17% — an increase equivalent to the entire nation of Greece.
That’s only Exxon Mobil’s own emissions, not the emissions produced by its customers burning oil. When that is also taken into consideration, the total impact would be about five times bigger.
Oil companies are in a strange place: on one hand, their main activity is producing and selling fossil fuels, the main contributor to climate change. But on the other hand, they’re trying to shed the ‘bad guy’ image and move (or at least claim to be moving) towards sustainability.
Some are taking real steps. Equinor, traditionally a petroleum refining company, is making a massive move into wind energy. Others are just posturing — and Exxon Mobil seems to be king of this hill.
Unlike some of its rivals, Exxon Mobil never made a commitment to cut emissions or become carbon neutral. The likes of Shell and BP have at least announced plans to become carbon neutral by 2050, but Exxon hasn’t made any promises of cutting emissions or becoming carbon neutral. Although Exxon’s website is scarce in clear committments, though it does mention that “we support the Paris Agreement” and makes mentions of “actions to address the risks of climate change” and “maximizing transparency”.
Turns out, it’s more than just the planet that’s heating up. Exxon’s statements are also full of hot air.
The internal documents analyzed by Bloomberg show that Exxon has carefully assessed how its emissions would develop over the seven-year investment adopted in 2018. For instance, a chart notes that Exxon’s direct emissions would grow from 122 million metric tons of CO₂ equivalent in 2017 to 143 million metric tons in 2025. Though the company’s actions also mention some efforts to reduce pollution, the net overall emissions would surge.
Also according to Exxon’s documents, these direct emissions are only a fraction of the total emissions the company generates indirectly. In other words, these are operations emissions from extracting, refining, and distributing oil — the emissions from burning oil would be five times larger. If Exxon were to carry out its plans, it’d be like a small developed nation just popped up on the globe and started emitting greenhouse gases.
In a statement to Bloomberg, Exxon said its internal projections are “a preliminary, internal assessment of estimated cumulative emission growth through 2025 and did not include the [additional] mitigation and abatement measures that would have been evaluated in the planning process,” and that the plans have since changed. However, Exxon declined to provide any details on its new plans or how this would fit with the climate objectives of staying within 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius of preindustrial times.
It’s not the first time Exxon leaks have caused a stir: other documents revealed that Exxon knew about climate change since the 70s and lied to hide it.