Exxon’s new climate plan is unadulterated waste

Protesters light a fire with tires blocking access to the Exxon Mobil refinery in France.  It's also a metaphor for how Exxon deals with the atmosphere.

Protesters light a fire with tires blocking access to the Exxon Mobil refinery in France. It’s also a metaphor for how Exxon deals with the atmosphere.
Photo: Carly Triballeau (Getty Images)

In March, Exxon CEO Darren Woods lamented Which other oil companies drawing up climate plans were simply doing a “beauty pageant.” Now Exxon has its own climate plan. But it’s the ugliest and most ridiculous of the bunch, because it actually says nothing about reducing emissions.

To be fair to Woods, it’s pretty easy to criticize other oil companies’ climate plans. We do it all time here! The difference is, Earther is not a ruthless, multinational corporation dedicated to eradicating competition, gross violations of human rights, and lie to the public to anchor our company and our bottom line.

It’s rich that Exxon talks nonsense about his fellow planetary death dealers pretending to hand out a kinder, gentler death sentence. But now it looks like Exxon has gotten around to it the PR value of drawing up a climate plan. On Monday it is dropped a vision for humanely destroying the biosphere. While other oil companies have said they will get farBeyond its goal of net zero emissions by 2050, Exxon is here to let you know that it is focused on “meaningful short-term emissions reductions”. But the catch is that the plan doesn’t include emissions cuts.

Rather, it calls for a reduction in emissions intensity of its business by 15% to 20% by 2025, completely offset by its plan to increase oil production. It also includes methane targets that are refocused on reducing intensity rather than overall emissions. That gives Exxon the leeway to keep increasing its emissions as long as they are less intense. And plan to do that, according to leaked documents viewed by Bloomberg in October. They show that Exxon’s business plan would result in a 17% increase in total CO2 emissions. It is the equivalent of someone who is lactose intolerant and drinks a liter of half and half instead of a glass from whipped cream and pretend that is somehow better for them and everyone around them.

Exxon’s promise to the half-and-half mainline is also focused solely on ‘upstream’ operations – everything from getting the oil off the ground to the refinerywhich account for about a fifth of the total emissions of a barrel of oil. Most emissions come downstream from the transportation and use of that oil, a chunk of emissions known in oil speak as Scope 3. If we want to keep the dairy analogy going, Scope 3 emissions are comparable to the butter from carbon pollution. Exxon’s offering for those emissions isn’t even a reduction in intensity. Rather, it is “delivering Scope 3 emissions”. So Exxon’s plan is to keep pushing butter down your throat while sternly telling you it’s bad and asking why you’re not going to stop eating.

The methane intensity reductions – the targets include a 40% to 50% intensity drop and a 35% to 45% lower flare intensity by 2025 – are also comical. Oil companies, including Exxon, Donald pleaded Trump Do not roll back rules to limit methane emissions, as this could damage natural gas’s reputation as a cleaner form of fossil fuel. President-elect Joe Biden has said repeatedly that he will crack down on the powerful greenhouse gas, and it features prominently in his climate plan. Essentially, Exxon is committing to something it will almost certainly have to do anyway. And again, a reduced intensity of the flash does nothing actually reduce production.

The clearest sign that Exxon’s plan is a cheap PR stunt is actually how it’s presented. The page features beautiful photos of the Eiffel Tower symbolizing the Paris Agreement and a slightly blurry photo of people lounging in Central Park amid green grass. standard pablum for things like this. But the real tip is the little sharing icons for each section, which indicate that Exxon has a message it would love to get out into the world. Click on it and you can post the following to your Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn page:

“Builds on the success of existing efforts to reduce methane emissions and flaring, and supports the goals of the Paris Agreement”

It’s a word salad of vague words meaning nothing with a link to the nothing plan. Fittingly, the Twitter share option doesn’t even link to it, as Exxon can’t even be bothered to pretend it cares. Exxon lied about climate change for decades and is historically the largest source of investor emissions and the third largest cause from ocean acidification. This is not a company doing anything in good faith.

The final insult comes from Woods himself. In a pull quote in the climate plan, he notes that “we respect and support society’s ambition to achieve net zero emissions by 2050,” something Exxon says explicitly in its plan in which it will not participate. This is the Big Oil version of thoughts and prayers. And if this plan is the best Exxon can think of, then we need those thoughts and prayers unless policymakers take meaningful steps to wind down oil production, protect workers and hold companies like Exxon accountable.