Last week we talked about new legislation in California and in a few other countries outside of the U.S., starting the slow process of phasing out gas-operated vehicles from our roads. The transportation sector is one of the biggest culprits for carbon emissions around the world. The carbon emissions from this sector are not only from the movement of the vehicles that get us around our neighborhood or to visit friends or family in other parts of the world, but they also include the production of the gasoline to fill these vehicles. The production of oil and gasoline is a dirty process that produces millions of tons of carbon emissions—225 million metric tons in the U.S. alone—to refine the product for use.
Although several countries, and now California, are starting to slowly move toward replacing gas-operated vehicles with their electric counterparts to decrease emissions and mitigate the climate crisis, it seems that some gasoline companies have no plans of slowing down. Last week, a set of internal documents from Exxon Mobil were leaked to Bloomberg News. These documents revealed that the company is planning for an estimated 17% increase in annual carbon emissions by 2025 with its new $210 billion investment strategy. This roughly translates to 158 million tons of carbon emissions every year. That’s the same as the carbon emission expenditure of the entire country of Greece.
ExxonMobil is the largest oil producer in the United States. Unlike other oil companies, Exxon has never publicly disclosed any concrete plans for when it plans to be carbon neutral or how it will tackle carbon emissions in the future. According to these documents, the company does not view the health of our planet and that of its people as a priority over its own profits. Furthermore, the report’s estimates only reflect a portion of the carbon emissions for which Exxon is responsible. It has been estimated that emissions from direct operations of a large oil company such as Exxon only account for a fifth of total emissions. The latter being emissions created from customers who use the fuel in their own vehicles, emissions that the Exxon documents do not account for.
The goal of this strategy is doubling of current earnings by 2025. Oil demand has plummeted in recent months and even years as electric cars have become more prevalent in the market, and people are traveling less due to the pandemic. Exxon’s current share price is near a low point that the company hasn’t seen in eighteen years. It appears that the company will do anything to stay afloat and claw its way back to the top. Even if that means ignoring experts’ warning that it is absolutely vital for global oil and production to be reduced to avoid a global temperature increase over 1.5 degrees Celsius, a point after which the planet will be permanently and irreversibly damaged.
After the original analysis was released by Bloomberg, ExxonMobil released a statement to clear up its name. The statement mostly consisted of excuses that these estimates are just that, and the actual emission will most likely be lower because of the planned “mitigation and abatement measures” the company intends to take. The measures that the oil giant is referring to is carbon capture. Carbon capture is the process of collecting the carbon emissions created as a byproduct and storing them underground so that they don’t reach the atmosphere. The problem with this method is that the gas isn’t guaranteed to stay where it’s buried. Scientists have found that the carbon can spread underground and leak into groundwater aquifers, potentially making the water undrinkable.
This is horrifying news of deliberate neglect for our safety and the planet in the name of driving profits. After all, Exxon’s internal documents were leaked by someone who was just as horrified and decided to take a stand regardless of the consequences they might face as an individual. Whoever you are, I want to say thank you. Your actions might have just saved countless lives. However, I also know that not everyone is in a position to do the same thing. We are in the middle of a pandemic that is changing the already turbulent job market even more. So I wonder, what other companies have plans for unsustainable growth that will continue to push our planet to its breaking point? Plans that are most likely unknown to the public and will remain unknown until it is too late.
It feels frustrating to be making all the changes currently feasible in my life to help slow down climate change when giant companies like ExxonMobil make decisions that effectively undo so much of our progress in an office somewhere for the sake of an extra zero in their bank account. I’m sure you feel the same. However, we cannot afford to give up, dear readers. We must keep showing and telling these giant corporations that we want and need change. Some of them are starting to listen. Some of Exxon’s rivals have previously announced plans to zero out their emissions. It is time for these energy companies to move into renewables if they wish to stay in the market. We must continue fighting and showing the demand for renewable energy sources and a better, more affordable electric car market. Keep fighting for a better future, dear readers, I will be right there with you.
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Photo: Brent Pace on Unsplash