HOUSTON – Even though he’s the CEO of a company, Darren Woods rarely makes headlines ExxonMobilIt is the oil company that some people regard as a major environmental villain and others believe it to be a vital engine of the US economy.
Few have taken seriously, or even noticed, that it is starting to make promises to respond to climate change, at least A rhetorical estrangement from his predecessors If not objective.
“What society is asking for, appropriately, is reliable, affordable, zero-emissions energy associated with current energy systems,” he said on Tuesday. “We are working on this development.”
While that may sound like a cautious statement, Mr. Woods, a soft-spoken electrical engineer from Wichita, was clearly changing the tone for the company, which he took over four years ago. The Texas bragging used by his predecessors, one of whom had openly dismissed concerns about climate change, has turned into a philosophical vague thing.
In an interview aimed at raising the curtain on CEOs’ annual presentation to financial analysts and investors Wednesday, Mr. Woods, 56, shed light on poetry about the history of technology and the energy industry and even indicated that there is common ground between him. Plans to reduce emissions and President Biden’s efforts to combat climate change. He has gone so far as to promise that Exxon will try to set a goal of not emitting more greenhouse gases than they are emitting from the atmosphere, although he said it was still difficult to say when that might happen.
“We support this ambition, and our goal is to help society achieve it,” said Mr. Woods. Frankly, recognition for the challenge is growing. It’s an evolving conversation that I find very useful for thinking about what needs to happen. “
Under pressure from activist investors, Exxon this week said it was Add two new managers With no previous fossil fuel ties to its board of directors. The company recently said that it will create a new business Carbon dioxide has been captured from industrial facilities And they buried it deep in the ground. It also recently invested in Global Thermostat, a company that aims to absorb carbon dioxide from the air.
Of course, many people are extremely skeptical of the company’s plans and motives. Unlike CEOs of European oil companies, Mr. Woods is not cutting his oil and gas investments in favor of spending money on wind and solar power. He avoided commenting on BP’s pledge last year to Reducing net emissions to zero by 2050.
Peter Kroll, CEO of Earth Equity Advisors, said research: “Unlike their major oil rivals who are starting to take action on climate change, Woods and ExxonMobil are still living in a fabulous world of inaction as California burns and Texas freezes. “. An investment company specializing in sustainability.
After spending nearly three decades with a company traditionally known for its isolation, rigid culture, and public indifference to global warming, Mr. Woods has suggested that he is ready to steer it on a different, albeit incremental, path.
As Exxon’s share price continues to drop from what it was a decade ago, many investors demanded no less.
“My interaction with investors is a reflection of what I would say are the broader trends of society,” said Mr. Woods.
Mr. Woods’ four years as CEO spanned turbulent times for the industry. Oil and gas prices have rebounded several times in recent years. And last year, Demand for petroleum products has collapsed As the coronavirus pandemic spreads. Exxon lost $ 22.4 billion in 2020, much of it from asset write-offs that the company acquired at rich prices before Mr Woods took office.
But in recent weeks, oil and gas prices have recovered, and Exxon and its shares have improved. Mr. Woods said revenue was flowing again, allowing the company to reduce debt and pay for future projects. The company’s profits, which it has accumulated every year for nearly four decades, now appear to be safe from disruption.
What Exxon does not do is spend a lot of its wealth on businesses or ideas designed to drastically reduce emissions. It’s only spending $ 3 billion through 2025 on capturing carbon from factories – a small faction of $ 16 billion to $ 19 billion it plans. Spending on oil exploration and capital projects this year.
Mr. Woods said he would seek more change by looking for advanced technologies. But many are still years or decades away from having a major impact on emissions.
He said, “Until we know the path, what is required and what are the solutions, it is difficult to know.” “What we can do is commit to finding that, and once we find the answers, you will see us begin to commit and are actually on the path to net zero.”
As Exxon invests in energy efficiency, biofuel and hydrogen projects, Mr. Woods has expressed his particular enthusiasm for his company of 20 carbon capture and storage projects. While the technology has not yet been widely deployed because it is so expensive, Mr. Woods and Exxon scientists argue that it could play an important role in reducing emissions from cement and steel manufacturing and other industrial processes that cannot be easily run with renewable energy.
“There will be a need for carbon capture and storage,” he said.
He even noted that “there is definitely a possibility” that Exxon’s CCS program could fit perfectly with Mr. Biden’s policies and goals.
“There is a need to support the right policy and regulatory framework to support these investments and they will be important,” said Mr. Woods. We want to join them in that conversation. You will need a permit for investments. You will need pipeline systems, legislation, regulatory reform and legal frameworks for storing carbon dioxide. “
Mr. Biden has expressed support for carbon capture and sequestration. It is one of the environmental policies that could have the support of Republicans in Congress, although many liberal Democrats are not keen on it because they see it prolonging the use of fossil fuels.
Many climate scientists are highly skeptical of whether the technology can be deployed on the scale required to have a significant impact on emissions. Some energy executives share this suspicion.
Sherif Suki, CEO of Tellurian, a liquefied natural gas company, said carbon capture was one of several potentially promising technologies to combat climate change. But he added, “There is no effective way to do this on the scale necessary to accommodate what we need to do.”
But Mr. Woods said he was optimistic about the path Exxon chose. “It’s very difficult to predict when a breakout will happen, but if you look back at the right time, it happens constantly,” he said.