In Their Own Words, Big Oil Warms to Climate and Shuns Growth


If you want to understand how Big Oil has changed during one of its most-turbulent eras, just look at the annual strategy outlooks from America’s supermajors: Out is growth, and in is saving the climate.

Executives from Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. for the first time have put climate friendly, anti-pollution efforts front and center in annual strategy presentations that historically were heavier on talk of barrels, rigs and refining margins.

In Chevron’s statement on Tuesday and Exxon’s from last week, references to “carbon” and “flaring” soared compared with a year ago, while mentions of “growth” (i.e., more oil) cratered. The messaging shift comes amid increasing investor pressure to embrace the transition away from fossil fuels and join European peers in a more robust stance against climate change.

In Their Own Words, Big Oil Warms to Climate and Shuns Growth

The word count shows that the number of mentions of “growth” and “grow” declined from 31 in 2020 to 13 this year. Meanwhile, “carbon” -- a common way for Exxon and Chevron bosses to flick at climate change -- made 28 appearances this year, an almost-fivefold increase from 2020.

Both companies this year also focused on flaring, the unpopular practice of burning off excess gas when there’s no local market or pipelines to haul it away. The word count may reflect some spin, but ultimately the message matters, especially in light of the arrival of President Joe Biden’s green agenda.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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