Scottish Windfarm Starts Producing Electricity

ExxonMobil is the one of the world’s largest energy companies. But while the firm identifies its two primary priorities as producing energy and “reducing our emissions profile while we do it” – according to vice-president of government affairs Ken Cohen – energy, in this case, refers almost exclusively to oil and gas.

ExxonMobil does have some investments in renewables research, including a joint effort with Synthetic Genomics to develop algae-derived biofuels. But its allocations to alternative forms of energy are miniscule relative to its roughly $40 billion capital expenditures budget, and this has exposed ExxonMobil to criticism, particularly from the environmental camp.

The company cites two main reasons for its almost exclusive oil and gas focus: its expectations that oil and gas will comprise the largest share of future energy needs, and the profit imperative of a publicly held company.

By 2040, “60% of the world’s energy supply is going to be coming from oil and natural gas”, said Cohen at the Columbia University Energy Symposium in late November. That is roughly the same share that oil and gas occupy in global energy consumption today. “It’s the business we’re in, it’s the business that we know, and that is the bigest portion of the global energy portfolio today and going forward.”

“The short answer is: the world is going to need us to do what we’re doing,” said Cohen.

He added that from a financial perspective, many renewables projects do not compete with the company’s existing oil and gas investment opportunities.

“The simple fact is that the economic returns for many still in the renewable business come from government subsidy,” Cohen said. “We just aren’t, as a corporation, inclined to get involved in businesses that at the present time require government subsidy to be competitive with our core business, which is producing oil and natural gas.”