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The Turning Tide in the Battle Against Big Oil companies

Oil companies have faced constant criticism and lawsuits in recent years for the negative impact of their products on the environment. Activist groups such as Friends of the Earth have had significant victories, like forcing Shell to reduce its emissions by 45%, which has fueled further attention to the industry. The whole sector is now under scrutiny, with governments in Europe and North America supporting the energy transition, and Big Oil being the primary target due to its size. The oil industry has largely remained quiet on these issues, but that has changed in recent times.

In 2021, Chris Wright, the CEO of Liberty Energy, made a highly public response to these accusations. He released a YouTube video attacking North Face for refusing to sell apparel to an oil company and accused them of hypocrisy. He pointed out that the synthetic fibers used in North Face products are also a product of the oil industry. The response from North Face was to admit that associating with an oil company would harm their image, and they promised to make all their products recyclable by 2030.

More recently, Wright posted a video on LinkedIn that challenged the climate crisis narrative. LinkedIn initially took down the video for violating its misinformation policies, but later restored it after Wright’s challenge. The Wall Street Journal even wrote an article about the incident.

Wright’s stance on climate change is still the exception, but other major players in the industry are challenging the energy transition in different ways. For example, the CEO of Chevron, Mike Wirth, countered accusations by the Biden administration that the oil industry was making excessive profits. He argued that the profits were modest returns on investments. Exxon even went as far as attacking the windfall tax recommended by the European Union in court, calling it counter-productive and exceeding the legal authority of the EU.

The French company TotalEnergies also took legal action against Greenpeace after the organization issued a report claiming that TotalEnergies was underreporting its emissions. The company accused Greenpeace of spreading misinformation and filed a lawsuit against them.

Recently, there has been a shift in the oil industry, with record profits leading to a change in attitude. BP, which was once a leader in the transition from an oil major to a renewable energy major, has reduced its oil and gas production cut target from 40% to 25% by 2030. There are reports that the CEO of BP is unhappy with the returns from the company’s renewable energy projects and plans to dial back its transformation efforts. This change in attitude may be due to the disappointing performance of renewable energy majors like Orsted and Siemens Gamesa, or it may be that the oil industry has had enough and is no longer willing to take the criticism without a fight.