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Exxon lays out "net zero" plan to reduce carbon emissions from its plants

Yellowstone Oil Spill
Posted at 12:22 PM, Jan 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-18 14:22:52-05

ExxonMobil on Tuesday announced a plan to cut down on carbon emissions from the company's operations — an indication the energy giant is nodding to climate pressure from investors and competitors, even as its plan doesn't address Exxon's largest source of emissions.

The U.S.' biggest energy company announced a "net-zero ambition" for the carbon pollution generated directly from its operations by 2050. The plan, which is not binding, means that Exxon's oil and gas fields, refineries, gas stations and corporate buildings will take back more carbon than they emit into the atmosphere.

However, the plan leaves out the carbon pollution generated by consumer use of the oil and gas Exxon extracts. Known as Scope 3 emissions, that consumer pollution accounts for 90% of the company's carbon footprint.

In 2017, Exxon's oil and gas products emitted the equivalent of 1.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, Houston Public Media reported — nearly double the annual carbon emissions from all of Texas.

"We are developing comprehensive roadmaps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our operated assets around the world, and where we are not the operator, we are working with our partners to achieve similar emission-reduction results," CEO Darren Woods said in a statement Tuesday.

Exxon said it identified more than 150 processes to reduce emissions from its operations, including electrifying operations, upgrading equipment and cutting down on methane emissions at oil and gas sites.

But climate activists quickly pilloried Exxon's plans, saying they fell far short of what is needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

"I don't give a damn if Exxon is changing the lightbulbs at their office: it's the millions of barrels of oil they're producing that are the problem," Jamie Henn, a climate activist and director at Fossil Free Media, said on Twitter.

Wealthy nations need to reduce their extraction plans for oil, gas and coal by at least half to meet their stated climate ambitions in coming decades, a U.N. report recently found.

Exxon competitor Shell last year set a target to reach net zero emissions by 2050, including Scope 3 emissions from the use of its oil products. Norwegian oil company Equinor and Spain's Repsol have announced similar net-zero goals.

Exxon has had a tumultuous few years as it grapples with investors and policymakers who are increasingly focused on the climate threat from burning fossil fuels.

Last June, Exxon shareholders elected three climate activists to the company's board against the fierce opposition of its management.

The company also suffered blowback after one of its lobbyists was caught on camera describing Exxon's efforts to discredit climate science and saying that Exxon's support for a carbon tax was merely a "talking point." The revelations prompted a rare apology from Woods.