If you’ve been listening to the world’s major energy companies over the past few years, you probably think the clean energy transition is well on its way. But with fossil fuel use and emissions still rising, it is not moving nearly fast enough to address the climate crisis.
In June, Shell became the latest of the big oil companies to curb plans to cut oil output, announcing that it will no longer reduce annual oil and gas production through the end of the decade. The company also raised its dividend, diverting money that could be used to develop clean energy. BP’s share prices surged this year when the company walked back its plan to reduce oil and gas output.
The industry can point to efforts to reduce emissions and pursue green energy technologies. But those efforts pale in comparison with what they are doing to maintain and enhance oil and gas production. As the International Energy Agency put it, investment by the industry in clean fuels “is picking up” but “remains well short of where it needs to be.”
Overall, oil and gas companies are projected to spend more than $500 billion this year on identifying, extracting and producing new oil and gas supplies and even more on dividends to return record profits to shareholders, according to the I.E.A.
The industry has spent less than 5 percent of its production and exploration investments on low-emission energy sources in recent years, according to the I.E.A. Indeed, the fact that many companies (with some notable exceptions) seem to be prioritizing dividends, share buybacks and continued fossil fuel production over increasing their clean energy investments suggests they are unable or unwilling to power the transition forward. [Continue reading…]