Running a major oil company means not having to say you’re sorry. Or at least that’s what ExxonMobil’s managers seem to believe. Earlier this week the oil giant posted a report on
how it plans to reconcile the need to sharply limit fossil fuel emissions to protect the climate with its continuing gargantuan investments in additional oil and gas reserves. Its answer? We aren’t changing course. We’re going to keep drilling and spilling (carbon pollution at least); the world will just have to live with it.
People are used to chutzpah from ExxonMobil but even hardened oil baron watchers are wide-eyed at the brazenness of the company’s stance this time out. It is telling its investors no matter what happens to the climate, the world is in thrall to our products and no governments will dare to adopt policies that will provide alternatives in meaningful amounts. So we plan to keep spending billions every year amassing more oil and gas properties and we assure you dear shareholders, there will be willing buyers for every last barrel we decide to sell.
Exxon’s rationale for its position is that the world’s largest economies have not taken serious steps yet to curb carbon pollution so the company can assume they won’t act in the future in a way that will reduce dependence on oil and gas. From a risk-management standpoint, the company’s position is as irresponsible as the father who tells his children, “don’t bother with the seat belts, kids. We haven’t had an accident yet and I don’t see any cops around. Chill and enjoy the ride!”