Opinion: Despite what divestment activists say, ExxonMobil is searching for climate solutions

A sign outside the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance is shown in a photograph from 2012.

A sign outside the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance is shown in a photograph from 2012.

(Reed Saxon / Associated Press)
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ExxonMobil recognizes the risks posed by climate change. We believe that everyone -- including oil and gas companies -- should be engaged in meaningful action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Based on recent media coverage of our company however, you could be forgiven if you found this surprising. A coordinated public relations campaign is under way against ExxonMobil, which is misleading the public by accusing us of hiding what we knew about climate change and working against climate science. Sadly, the Los Angeles Times is one of the leading publications to repeat these accusations, having published an op-ed article recently (among other pieces to have run in the paper) by a Rockefeller heir supporting the divestment campaign against ExxonMobil.

At ExxonMobil, we’re proud of our history of science and technology research, and this includes our work in addressing climate change. Since the 1970s, we have openly and publicly researched and discussed the risks of climate change, carbon life-cycle analysis and emissions reductions. Our work has resulted in nearly 150 publicly available papers, including more than 50 peer-reviewed publications. We have worked alongside other top scientists and participated in the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since its inception in 1988, including serving as co-authors for the organization’s climate assessments. We continue to be active, public participants in the scientific community’s search for solutions.


The fact is, in the last decade, ExxonMobil has spent billions of dollars to research and develop new energy technologies, as well as find ways to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and environmental footprint. We employ 2,200 PhD scientists and engineers, and more than 5,000 people at our global research and technology divisions. And we have joined with more than 80 universities around the world to research lower-emission technologies.

Let me share a few examples of ExxonMobil’s contributions to emissions reduction:

  • ExxonMobil, and our subsidiary XTO Energy, have been instrumental in the “shale revolution” that has enabled U.S. gas production to rise by close to 45% since 2005. Increased availability of natural gas, which emits up to 60% less carbon dioxide than coal when burned to generate electricity, is a big reason America’s greenhouse gas emissions have declined to levels not seen since the 1990s.
  • ExxonMobil scientists and engineers have pioneered nearly 300 patents for technologies that boost efficiency and cut emissions. We are actively researching solutions that could play a major role in emissions reduction in the decades to come, such as carbon capture and sequestration, and biofuels developed from advanced sources such as algae.
  • Advanced plastics made by ExxonMobil’s chemical company are promoting sustainability and reducing energy use. Auto parts built from strong-but-lightweight plastics made using oil and gas will help make cars 80% more fuel-efficient by 2040.

Given all of this, the recent accusations against ExxonMobil make no sense -- that is, until you learn that the anti-ExxonMobil campaign, and the supposedly unbiased media reports it rests upon, is in fact funded by groups actively opposed to the use of oil and natural gas. Some of the leaders of this campaign believe the best way to address climate change is to divest oil and gas company shares or to engage in other gestures intended to demonize an industry helping people around the world enjoy access to modern energy sources and rising living standards.

ExxonMobil fundamentally disagrees with that vision.

Our vision is one in which technological innovations continue to improve people’s quality of life around the world while reducing climate change risks.

Government policies have an important role to play in addressing climate risks, provided those policies are effective and fair. Not all of them are. ExxonMobil spoke out against the Kyoto Protocol in the 1990s because, among other things, it would have exempted two-thirds of the world’s emitters. And we opposed ill-conceived cap-and-trade programs in the 2000s, some of which would have exempted coal.

We support efforts by nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. When governments are considering policy options, ExxonMobil believes a revenue-neutral carbon tax is the most effective way to manage carbon emissions.

By 2040, the world’s population will have risen to 9 billion and global energy demand will be about 25% higher than it is today. ExxonMobil is confident in mankind’s ability to meet this energy challenge, while also improving efficiency and deploying lower-emitting technologies. In the decades to come, we will continue to advance energy solutions that are affordable, reliable and scalable. And we will continue to support policies that can reduce emissions while enabling continued economic progress.


Suzanne McCarron is vice president of public and government affairs at ExxonMobil Corp.

This piece is part of Blowback, our online forum for rebuttals to the Los Angeles Times. If you would like to write a full-length response to a recent Times article, editorial or Op-Ed and would like to participate in Blowback, here is our submission policy and some FAQs.

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