Exxon CEO advocates against painting Big Oil as ‘villains’ for climate, emphasizes technology over supply reduction 

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ExxonMobil Corp.’s Chief Executive Officer, Darren Woods, addressed concerns surrounding the portrayal of Big Oil as “villains” in the climate change narrative, warning that restricting fossil fuel supplies would impede progress towards achieving net zero emissions and perpetuate poverty in the developing world.

Speaking at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit in San Francisco, Woods highlighted the need for a shift in the approach to combating climate change. He cautioned against an overemphasis on reducing fossil fuel supplies, deeming it a pathway toward increased human hardship and a world of diminished prosperity.

“The solutions to climate change have been too focused on reducing supply. That is a recipe for human hardship and a poorer world,” Woods emphasized during his speech.

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Advocating for governmental support in advancing emissions-reducing technologies like carbon capture, Woods urged the industry to work collectively towards change, stressing the need to prioritize technology investment before market forces can independently drive such transitions.

“Attacking oil and gas companies for their role in climate change will only serve to keep net zero as an aspiration rather than a reality,” he asserted.

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Exxon has intensified its commitment to energy transition initiatives in recent years, allocating US$17 billion over six years towards low-carbon projects. Notably, the corporation’s acquisition of Denbury Inc., the largest carbon dioxide pipeline operator in the US, for approximately US$5 billion showcases its dedication to diversifying its portfolio.

However, while Exxon is making strides in low-carbon endeavors, it remains rooted in oil and gas investments. Woods reaffirmed the company’s stance, expressing that Exxon won’t curtail oil and gas production or heavily pivot towards renewable energy like its European counterparts. Instead, the focus remains on investing in complementary low-carbon technologies such as carbon capture and hydrogen.

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“Oil and gas companies reliably provide affordable products essential to modern life,” Woods emphasized. “Making them into villains is easy. But it does nothing – absolutely nothing – to accomplish the goal of reducing emissions.”

On a personal note, Woods highlighted his commitment to environmental stewardship as a father and grandfather, stressing the importance of preserving the planet for future generations.

Acknowledging past criticisms and controversies surrounding Exxon’s climate stance, Woods underscored the company’s current knowledge and proactive approach to climate change. “Climate change is real. Human activity plays a major role,” he affirmed, attempting to shift the focus from the past, to the present commitment to addressing climate challenges.

Concluding with an assertion of Exxon’s capabilities and resources in combating emissions, Woods aimed to redefine the narrative by stating, “That’s what ExxonMobil knows.”

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