Big Oil: The Green and the Black

Big Oil's Real Agenda on Climate Change 2022, a new analysis from the U.K.-based nonprofit public interest think tank InfluenceMap, explores the discrepancy between what the oil industry claims and what it actually does.

Over 3,400 statements from BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Shell, and TotalEnergies that appeared on social media throughout 2021 (excluding TV advertising) were examined by researchers. Both green claims (such as climate solutions) and oil and gas claims were assessed for the messages (community and economy, pragmatic energy mix and patriotic energy mix).

About decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, changing the energy mix, and promoting low-carbon fossil fuels like natural gas and liquefied natural gas, the five supermajors' communications collectively made green claims in 60% of their communications (LNG).

The two U.S. supermajors made comparable claims in 20% (Exxon Mobil) and 31% (Chevron) of their public messaging, compared to the three European energy titans, who made green statements about changing the energy balance in roughly 50% of their communications.

Only 23% of 2021's communications messaging addressed claims related to oil and gas, with the two American giants highlighting these advantages significantly more than their European counterparts. 

According to InfluenceMap, 37% of Exxon Mobil's and 32% of Chevron's messages lauded the industry for its contributions to society, the economy, energy security, and quality of life.

While ExxonMobil appears to be focused on positioning itself as a low emission oil and gas producer, the difference in communications strategies suggests that European companies are presenting themselves as broad energy companies (emphasising their businesses in renewables, for example, rather than presenting themselves as oil and gas companies).

The five supermajors spent a combined projected $750 million in 2021 on communicating about climate change, which is around 62% of their anticipated annual communications spending of $1.2 billion. 

InfluenceMap calculated that investments in low-carbon activities made up around 12% of the expected $87 billion to $96 billion in capitThe five supermajors spent a combined projected $750 million in 2021 on communicating about climate change, which is around 62% of their anticipated annual communications spending of $1.2 billion. al expenditures for the five corporations in 2021.

Exxon Mobil expects to spend about 8% of its 2023 capex budget on low-carbon activities (amount not specified); TotalEnergies will spend 25% of its 2022 capex budget (amount not specified) on renewables and electricity; BP will spend about 17% of its 2022 capex budget of $14 billion to $15 billion on low-carbon activities; and Chevron will spend 5% of its 2022 capex budget on renewables.

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