News and Analysis | David Macdonald | March 10, 2022

The big oil cover-up

A ground-breaking peer-reviewed scientific journal entry has blown open the doors on the great big oil cover-up. The study finds that despite their claims, the big oil companies, including Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and BP, are not decreasing their spending across fossil fuels and non-renewable energy. They are, in fact, increasing.

Researchers analysed 12 years of data up to 2020, and found that companies had, in fact, increased their exploration into further oil and gas fields. These companies, who are responsible for more than 10% of global carbon emissions since 1965, have consistently claimed across ad campaigns and tag-lines that they have lowered spending into non-renewable sources. However that just is not the case.

It is yet another example of greenwashing – appearing to be cooperative in the fight against climate change, but  in reality, only serving to add to the problem. Increasing use of buzz-words like “climate” and “low carbon” have not mirrored any concrete action.

Maybe it’s no surprise that oil companies are greenwashing their ‘clean energy’ credentials, since they still consider themselves to be oil companies.  It’s only when they re-frame and recognise themselves instead as ‘energy’ or ‘infrastructure’ companies that they will be able to have the self-awareness and self-identity to make the necessary shift. 

To my mind, there are great comparisons from history. Consider, for example, back in the day: when trains were invented, stagecoach companies were instantly in trouble. Many of those companies tried to make better and more competitive stagecoaches, but ultimately, they died out. On the other hand, there were those stagecoach companies that recognised that they were in the transportation business. They adapted and diversified into railroads, and that enabled them to prosper.

The best way to avoid investing in the companies that engage in disingenuous ‘spin’ and greenwash is through impact investing. A positive impact portfolio screens out all negative companies which have these types of controversies, whilst positively seeking out investment in companies delivering products and services with solutions for people and the planet.

At this stage, the calls to implement effective change, meaningful legislation and powerful sanctions have yet to come. We have to question how companies like BP can consistently act above the law, not just in the form of oil spills and natural atrocities, but in the nuanced details, the adverts, the buzz-words. We know that fossil fuels are unsustainable, and with it are these claims.