While 2022 saw some climate victories, news of record-breaking earnings for petroleum companies such as BP, Exxon, and Shell demonstrate just how much more work lies ahead to knock out the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. Exxon earned a record-breaking amount of $56 billion in profits last year alone—that’s nearly $6.3 million every single hour for the entire year.
For BP, which doubled its profits to an all-time high of $28 billion, it meant backtracking on what were already somewhat dubious climate change goals. Instead of lowering oil and gas production by 35 to 40 percent in the next decade, as previously stated, on Tuesday the fossil fuel giant announced that it is now setting goals back to just 20 to 30 percent reductions.
“BP is yet another fossil fuel giant mining gold out of the vast suffering caused by the climate and energy crisis,” Kate Blagojevic, Greenpeace UK’s head of climate justice told the Guardian. “What’s worse, their green plans seem to have been strongly undermined by pressure from investors and governments to make even more dirty money out of oil and gas. This is precisely why we need governments to intervene to change the rules.”
These fossil fuel companies have profited greatly from increasing energy prices due to the war in Ukraine. (European natural gas prices, for instance, have only just now fallen to pre-invasion prices.)
Additionally, the goals set by companies such as BP and Shell for greenhouse gas reductions are somewhat dubious to begin with, analysts say—German group Climate Analytics found last summer that if big fossil fuel companies were to follow their own goals, the world will warm “significantly” more than the Paris Agreement limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius. According to a Goldman Sachs report, Exxon and Chevron are only on track to invest 10 percent of their capital into renewable energy.
The UK introduced an Energy Profits Levy on the gigantic profits made at fossil fuels companies, but that only applies to profits from extracting gas and oil in the UK, according to the BBC. Last night, President Joe Biden proposed quadrupling the tax on corporate stock buybacks to quell the “outrageous” profits made by fossil fuel companies and encourage investment in domestic energy.