Is ExxonMobil Really the "Green Company of the Year"?

We Really, Really Hope So

It was hard, at first, to know whether the Forbes headline was tongue-in-cheek: ExxonMobil: Green Company of the Year.

But the story seemed sincere. Exxon is finally beginning to invest in renewable alternatives, putting $600 million into algae farms that would turn sunlight into automotive fuel. And the company is putting more effort than ever into developing and distributing natural gas.

Gas (methane) is unquestionably “greener” than Exxon’s conventional oil products. As Forbes says:

“Per unit of energy delivered, methane releases 40% to 50% less carbon dioxide than coal and a quarter less than petroleum. Coal fuels half of U.S. power generation. Replacing all of it with methane would cut CO2 emissions by 1 billion tons a year.”

Of course, Exxon isn’t actually “replacing” anything. It’s adding significantly to the global capacity to generate more greenhouse gases, even if some of the increase will come at a slower marginal pace.

Even the $600-million algae investment begins to pale when you put it into context. Exxon’s five-year capital expenditure plan runs to $125 billion, almost all of it on conventional oil and gas infrastructure. The algae farm amounts to a commitment of less than half of one per cent.

Forbes is right that Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson has nudged his company away from the course of unrestrained climate destruction that was championed by his predecessor, Lee Raymond. And as the most profitable company in the history of companies, Exxon is in a position to do a huge amount of good (or to continue doing a huge, huge amount of damage).

“Green company of the year”? Not quite. Not yet.

But we’ll keep hoping.



They’re a green company in the sense that money is green. Beyond that, I’m not so sure. But really, there is no reason for successful companies to limit themselves to oil or coal. If and when renewables become profitable, I’m sure they’ll be there to take advantage as any good green(back) company would.

But Exxon’s shortsightedness is one of the things that drives me crazy in all of this. Think where they could be today if they had been diverting, say, five per cent of pre-tax profits to renewable energy research like this. Do they condemn themselves to being the last profitable company in a declining empire, or do they burst into the next, green and sustainable economy owning a technology that all the world needs? Up till now, Exxon has been choosing the stoopid-guys-are-us option.

“And the company is putting more effort than ever into developing and distributing natural gas.”

Not sure why they claim to be doing this, since gas prices are at an all time low. Just not profitable right now. I smell something fishy.

Here in Canada, Imperial Oil is going full out in the tar sands (Fort Mac) and conventional oil (Cold Lake). Unlike, Suncor/PetroCanada, Imperial is not laying people off, in fact they are still hiring at a steady (but more modest) pace. And there’s no sign of any ‘greening’ north of the border.

I read lots of issue regarding this matter. Like Bill will give money for the research to invent new kind of cars that will not need to use gasoline. But is this really the solution with the pollution in the environment? Tyra Banks

Reminds me of politics in your home province Jim. The government you campaigned so hard to re-elect is looking more and more like Exxon shills in environmentalist clothing.