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climate tipping

Climate tipping point? ExxonMobil’s shareholder revolt and also the end of the line for fossil fuels

Few days spell out the future as clearly as this Wednesday did in terms of energy and climate action. The dikes of denial behind which Big Carbon has sheltered their deadly oil, coal and fossil gas were breached not once or twice but three times, and are now irreversibly crumbling.  Chevron shareholders rebuked the oil company’s refusal to commit to…


Few days spell out the near future as clearly as this Wednesday did with regards to electricity and climate actions.  The dikes of denial behind which Big Carbon has sheltered their deadly petroleum, coal and fossil gasoline have been broken maybe not once or twice but three times, and are currently irreversibly crumbling

Chevron shareholders rebuked the petroleum company’s refusal to commit to reduce climate emissions from both its manufacturing and sale of oil and gas. A Dutch courtroom advised Shell, that had already made such a commitment, but an inadequate one —  pledging a 20% decrease by 2030 — that in fact its emissions impact had to be cut by 45% in that same nine-year interval, and put in compliance with the 1.5-degree celsius heating limit known for from the Paris agreement.  

In the biggest headline-grabber of all, ExxonMobil shareholders refused at least two and perhaps three of the company’s board candidates. Instead they elected anti-management applicants extended by a very small hedge fund named Engine Company #1, that attacked Exxon’s climate denial for a business folly that is leading the company towards bankruptcy. (Full disclosure: The Engine Company #1 candidate whose candidacy is too close to predict, Andy Karsner, is a buddy of mine)  1 key to the shocking defeat of Exxon’s board slate was that the decision by its second largest investor, BlackRock, to vote against three of the four contested Exxon board members. 

Oil was not alone in Wednesday’s day of reckoning. The gas and coal businesses took a hit too.  The world’s biggest coal-exporting country, Indonesia, whose coal companies have long dominated domestic energy policy, produced the stunning announcement that it would allow no new coal power plants.  Instead, the country’s power sector will go renewable. This is definitely the most effective signal yet that emerging markets, even those with large domestic coal supplies, are planning to leapfrog from coal to renewable power — blowing a hole through the oil business’s concept that gas-fired power generation are the savior of its share worth. The information from Indonesia was awful for oil as well as coal and gas: The island nation relies heavily about 5,200 diesel-fired power plants, together with 2 gigawatts of power — and all of them will be substituted with renewable production by 2030.

These events are an unparalleled setback for the current oil business line on climate, which functions like this, together with numerous variants: 

  • Yes, climate modification Is a true problem, created in part by carbon dioxide emissions from oil and gas.
  • Yes, the entire world will slowly, over decades, move to lower dependence and possibly even a phase-out of petroleum.
  • But fossil gas is essential to meet a substantial portion of our energy needs, even at the second half of the century.
  • Oil and gas companies will need to supplement their current products with new, cleaner energy sources — however”clean fuel” technofixes like carbon capture and sequestration will be a major portion of their new business lines.
  • In short, the world can’t do without fossil fuels.

The shareholder and court activities on Wednesday revealed that the entire world no longer believes this fable.  Worse yet for its oil business, its clients no longer need to cling to oil and gas to meet their energy requirements.  Another half of this climbing wave that swept the energy sector was on the client side.  Ford Motor Company’s website proclaimed the launch of its electric version of the massively popular F-150 pickup truck with the breezy slogan“Say goodbye to gas.” The organization concurrently announced it will promote 40% electrical ve

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