ExxonMobil CEO says oil demand will grow in coming decades

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Darren Woods, Exxon CEO

Exxon Mobil Corp. investors backed a resolution urging the oil giant to consider whether it can prosper under strict greenhouse gas limits in a vote coming amid reports President Donald Trump may soon abandon the 2015 Paris Climate Accord.

According to a Bloomberg report, the non-binding measure, backed by investors including the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and the Church of England investment fund, won 62 percent of votes at Exxon’s shareholder meeting on Wednesday.

While the company opposed the resolution, Exxon CEO Darren Woods said he remains committed to the Paris pact’s goals and methods. Even with that agreement in place, he said, oil demand will grow in the coming decades, particularly in underdeveloped regions of the world.

“Energy needs are a function of population and living standards,” Woods said in his first annual meeting since becoming chief executive officer on Jan. 1. “When it comes to policy, the goal should be to reduce emissions at the lowest cost to society.”

Population growth and a desire for higher living standards will increase usage of petroleum-derived fuels, especially for transportation, because there are few widely-available alternatives, he said. There’s a huge untapped energy market among the 1 billion people who currently have no access to electricity and the 3 billion who don’t use modern cooking fuels, Woods said.

“It’s going to take a global solution” to limit greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, Woods said.

The remarks come amid news reports that Trump is on the verge of pulling the U.S. out of the Paris agreement. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted he would announce his decision within days.

Woods said his forecast assumes governments adhere to the strictures of the Paris pact, which calls for limiting emissions to prevent global temperatures from exceeding pre-industrial levels by 2 degrees Celsius.

Woods has been a staunch advocate for keeping the U.S. in the Paris group, as was his predecessor Rex Tillerson, who is now Trump’s secretary of state. In his first blog post after becoming CEO, Woods advocated low-emission fuels, carbon capture and biofuels as tools for meeting the goals of the Paris agreement.

In May 2016, the proposal received a 38 percent “yes” vote after the company said it already disclosed ample data about emissions and risk management. As a result of this year’s 62 percent “yes” vote, the board will reconsider its opposition.