One of the things I have loved about Twitter (pre-Elon Musk) was the opportunity to fire off a Tweet when I saw a disingenuous ad on a television station (often MSNBC) sponsored by one of the top oil producers. Usually, the spokesperson is talking about how great the company is and how much they are doing for the planet and your family’s health. I also never fail to respond to “promoted” tweets outlining their alleged leadership in renewable energy. And yes, I continue to be baffled when I get a climate newsletter from a political outlet that is underwritten by an oil/gas sponsor.
I get that it’s about big bucks, but the irony is hard to swallow.
With the release of a report from InfluenceMap, an “independent think tank producing data-driven analysis on how business and finance are impacting the climate crisis,” people get to read about how the public relations and social media trajectories of ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, and Total Energies stack up against their actual behavior in the marketplace.
All these corporations were on my radar except Total Energies, which is facing a lawsuit in France on the grounds of “greenwashing.” I have written about ExxonMobil. BP is permanently in the collective American consciousness since 2010. Chevron and Shell are repeatedly pointed to for their incursions into Indigenous lands in South America and Africa, respectively, where they have left behind never-ending destruction.
The top takeaway is that these five “supermajor” oil firms are not focused on how to move away from fossil fuel extraction. Instead, they are using hundreds of millions of dollars annually to pursue a calculated approach that portrays them as actively engaged leaders who are diminishing fossil fuel production. Phrases like “carbon neutral” and “no new investments” are a standard part of their lexicon.
The stats illustrate that nothing could be further from the truth, revealing the nefarious behaviors of these entities. It’s a page directly out of the big tobacco playbook. Goal: disseminating disinformation while increasing the bottom line.
The study parsed information from 2021 and determined that within 3,421 “items” from the communications materials of all the companies:
- 60% featured a minimum of one “green claim.
- In the “green” category, the most popular type of announcement was a statement of involvement or support in transitioning to an “energy mix.”
- Only 23% took ownership of assertions promoting fossil fuels.
The research done by InfluenceMap used cost analysis estimation (of the PR professionals and staff employed by these companies). They came up with the figure of $750 million per year for the “climate-related” messaging, and that may have been low.
That’s a lot of money, especially considering how those funds could have seeded research and development toward real climate action.
Predictions made from the findings underscored that a mere 12% of the 2022 capital expenditure (CAPEX) of these companies will be earmarked for “low carbon” tangible actions toward renewables.
Unsurprisingly, no pronouncements about predicted oil production numbers match the International Energy’s Net Zero Emissions goals of 2050. Instead, several of the Big 5 intend to increase their gas and oil production through 2026.
On October 31, President Biden called out the fossil fuel companies, using the phrase “war profiteering.” He was alluding to their high quarterly profits, which he attributed to the “windfall from the brutal conflict that’s ravaging Ukraine.”
None of these major industry players align with the Paris Agreement’s objectives. They are part of the enmeshed global network of oil and gas industry actors who are vociferous in their opposition to the stated aims of the Paris strategies.
Open Secrets has plenty of information on donations from fossil fuel companies and the PACs that support their mission. It’s not too late to find out where candidates are getting their funding.