Researchers Claim Proof Big Oil is Lying about their Climate Action Commitment

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

What a surprise – researchers have painstakingly analysed Big Oil’s public commitments to climate change vs their actions, and concluded “accusations of greenwashing are well founded”.

Big oil all talk, no action on climate change? Researchers say they’ve got the proof

ABC Science / By environment reporter Nick Kilvert

The world’s highest-polluting oil companies are promising big but delivering very little on climate change, according to damning new research published today.

Key points:

  • Researchers looked at how four big oil companies performed against their clean energy claims
  • They found that none of them were producing clean energy on a scale that indicates a move away from fossil fuels
  • Clean energy investment targets were often not being met

Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and BP are failing to meet green energy investment pledges and lack consistent transparency in their reporting of investments, the researchers say in science journal PLOS ONE.

They say fossil fuel production was maintained or increased by Chevron, Shell and BP between 2009 and 2020, despite committing to, or in Chevron’s case “aspiring to”, net-zero emissions by 2050 or before.

No indication of shifting away from fossil fuels

Between 2009 and 2020, none of the four companies generated renewable energy on a scale that would “indicate a shift away from fossil fuels”, despite all showing a significant increase in references to “climate change”, “transition”, “emissions” and “low carbon energy” in their annual reporting.

Chevron, ExxonMobil dragging the chain

Investment in “clean energy” by the two American companies — Chevron and ExxonMobil — made up less than a quarter of a per cent of their total capital expenditure.

But the researchers urged caution even over these modest figures.

“We can have one company claiming that it’s invested, you know, X amount of dollars in clean energy, but we don’t really know what’s meant by clean energy,” Dr Trencher said. 

“There’s no industry accepted definition of this.”

Read more:

The abstract of the study;

The clean energy claims of BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell: A mismatch between discourse, actions and investments

Mei Li, Gregory Trencher, Jusen Asuka

Published: February 16, 2022


The energy products of oil and gas majors have contributed significantly to global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and planetary warming over the past century. Decarbonizing the global economy by mid-century to avoid dangerous climate change thus cannot occur without a profound transformation of their fossil fuel-based business models. Recently, several majors are increasingly discussing clean energy and climate change, pledging decarbonization strategies, and investing in alternative energies. Some even claim to be transforming into clean energy companies. Given a history of obstructive climate actions and “greenwashing”, there is a need to objectively evaluate current and historical decarbonization efforts and investment behavior. This study focuses on two American (Chevron, ExxonMobil) and two European majors (BP, Shell). Using data collected over 2009–2020, we comparatively examine the extent of decarbonization and clean energy transition activity from three perspectives: (1) keyword use in annual reports (discourse); (2) business strategies (pledges and actions); and (3) production, expenditures and earnings for fossil fuels along with investments in clean energy (investments). We found a strong increase in discourse related to “climate”, “low-carbon” and “transition”, especially by BP and Shell. Similarly, we observed increasing tendencies toward strategies related to decarbonization and clean energy. But these are dominated by pledges rather than concrete actions. Moreover, the financial analysis reveals a continuing business model dependence on fossil fuels along with insignificant and opaque spending on clean energy. We thus conclude that the transition to clean energy business models is not occurring, since the magnitude of investments and actions does not match discourse. Until actions and investment behavior are brought into alignment with discourse, accusations of greenwashing appear well-founded.

Read more:

I know you are all as shocked as I am. Who could have predicted that researchers analysing the promises of big oil would discover that big oil doesn’t really care about climate change?

5 10 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mike McMillan
February 16, 2022 10:54 pm

Let’s cut Big Oil a little slack. It’s not as easy for an oil company to move away from oil as it was for the Associated Press to move away from journalism.

Reply to  Mike McMillan
February 17, 2022 4:05 am


Joao Martins
Reply to  Mike McMillan
February 17, 2022 4:50 am

Great comment!

Frank the Norwegian
Reply to  Mike McMillan
February 17, 2022 11:34 pm

We have a winner. You Sir, won the internet today!

February 16, 2022 11:07 pm

If Big Oil really had to rely just on the 27% of their base production that goes to fuels as the only end use of their base commodity, their businesses would have been screwed ages ago.

Some of these “researchers” should take a stroll through a hospital ward some time and note just how many plastic infusion tubes etc would have to be replaced with bamboo stalks if Big Oil stopped drilling.

Reply to  Mr.
February 17, 2022 12:12 am

Oh no. The plastic tubes will be replaced by ones made from hemp.

Reply to  AndyHce
February 17, 2022 6:11 am

Heh. I was just pondering what ‘hemp mania’ has tried to ‘wrought’ in our lives, and lo and behold a quick Google search conjures this up:

Hempmania offers a full line of stylish 100% HEMP bags and accessories that are not only eco-friendly but also beautiful …”

Dave Fair
Reply to  Mr.
February 17, 2022 10:52 am

CliSciFi is the only scientific field I’m aware of that classifies politicized opposition research as a scientific study.

February 16, 2022 11:13 pm

That’s nowhere near how much governments are lying….

Reply to  DMacKenzie
February 17, 2022 4:33 am

You have a point, DMacKenzie. But governments won’t hand out grants to research that.

Reply to  DMacKenzie
February 17, 2022 9:11 am

“We can have one company anybody (including govt) claiming that it’s invested, you know, X amount of dollars in clean energy, but we don’t really know what’s meant by clean energy,” Dr Trencher said.

“There’s no industry accepted definition of this (nebulous clean energy concept).”

The people garnering power or making a profit from the clean energy concept come out ahead by having an undefined standard.

February 16, 2022 11:23 pm

“Who could have predicted that researchers analysing the promises of big oil would discover that big oil doesn’t really care about climate change?”

IOW the message is fine, its the messengers we need to shoot.

Richard M
Reply to  Loydo
February 17, 2022 5:54 am

Since the messengers are pushing fake science and lies, yeah, a little pain might be a good start. After all, they are causing pain all around the world with their lies.

Reply to  Loydo
February 17, 2022 8:02 am

The truth is, with the exception of those who make their money pushing the global warming scam, nobody cares about climate change.

Dave Fair
Reply to  MarkW
February 17, 2022 10:58 am

Most people expressing support for spending on climate change want to do so with OPM. When queried about spending their own money, most go very cold.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Loydo
February 17, 2022 8:23 am

Wrong. The message isn’t “fine”, because they tell all the standard CAGW claptrap and lies, including the claim that oil companies “need” to do something about climate change”. The only thing they need to do is stop kissing up to Big Green, trying to placate them.

Frank the Norwegian
Reply to  Loydo
February 17, 2022 11:37 pm

Why do Left wing loonies always need to shoot and kill?

February 16, 2022 11:23 pm

Big Oil should make a joint statement stating due to the imminent threat of climate change, they have no choice but to cease oil and gas production on 31st December 2022.

And then wait for the panic in western governments

Reply to  Redge
February 17, 2022 2:13 am

Might be a little difficult to follow through on that. An alternative might be to declare that they would cease to sell oil or gas city by city. Starting with no sales in Washington DC, London, Berlin etc.

Reply to  Charlie
February 17, 2022 7:16 am

Or maybe start by not selling in CA.

Reply to  Glen
February 19, 2022 2:39 pm

I think Charlie’s point was for the capitol cities(politicians) to feel the effect first.

To get the greens in Cali, NY, Germany, UK etc., to feel the pain, just shut down their electrical interconnections to other states/countries and let their green energy support them. We want them to have vehicle fuel so the conservatives among them can leave their god forsaken liberal bastions of stupidity.

John MacDonald
February 16, 2022 11:26 pm

As a shareholder, I am very pleased these companies produce excellent dividends and share performance. (Especially this year thanks to Biden.)
As an ex-employee, I am glad to see them continue to provide reliable and convenient energy to the world economy.
As a human, I thank God for his gift of fossil fuels at this time in history and look forward to the realization of nuclear fusion energy in the near future.

Ron Long
Reply to  John MacDonald
February 17, 2022 2:32 am

Congratulations, John, you are part owner of oil companies! The article about oil companies “greenwashing” skips over the fact that all of the mentioned four companies are owned by shareholders. The CEO and President of a company runs the company to achieve the goals of the shareholders, said shareholders represented by the Board of Directors. If a shareholder wants to destroy their stock value they can vote for Directors that will cooperate, however, although these people exist, they own a very small amount of the stock, maybe 1/2 of 1%? The dysfunctional teachers union voted to divest from oil company stocks, which provided an excellent opportunity for the companies to engage in stock “buy-back” programs. Thank you, idiots.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Ron Long
February 17, 2022 11:02 am

The current fad is for companies to respond to the desires of “stakeholders;” busybodies and bluenose ideologues with no skin in the game.

Reply to  Ron Long
February 17, 2022 6:17 pm

Noam Chomsky invested in oil stocks. When his hypocrisy was pointed and he was asked why not invest in green stocks instead, he replied “what do you want me to do, live in a cabin in Montana”. Yes, the world would be a better place if he’d done that 60 years ago.

February 16, 2022 11:27 pm

For everyone dying of cold from energy poverty, the funeral bill can be sent to Naomi Oreskes

February 16, 2022 11:38 pm

I demand and they produce. You don’t demand they don’t produce. People actually get taxes to work this stuff out?

February 16, 2022 11:54 pm

Amazing! Oil and gas companies produce oil and gas. Climate alarmists produce climate alarm, and they get paid to write it while showing no real commitment to eliminating their own carbon footprints.

To date, there is no scalable, cost-effective and reliable so-called “clean” energy technology to replace oil and gas at a planetary societal scale, so oil and gas companies will continue to do what they do best. Until advanced nuclear designs are proven and quickly deployable (siting, design, licensing, construction and startup) similar to combined cycle gas turbines, oil, gas and coal will continue to be the dominant energy choices. Alternatively, nations and states and choose to self-destruct by accelerating elusive “net zero” goals.

If anything, the petroleum companies are making the mistake of paying homage to the green blob.

February 17, 2022 12:33 am

I have always been impressed by how clean those red Halliburton and blue schlumberger trucks are. Very clean energy.

Andy H
February 17, 2022 12:59 am

They make money selling stuff. Without this money there would be no investment in anything else.

I wonder if you could do the same word search on the green lobbying organisations. Maybe searching on words like “capitalism”, “community” and “equity”.

Of course, without a common enemy the greens don’t have anyone to blame and unify against. Oil companies fit that bill nicely. Just imagine if every time a green lobbyist said something bad about oil companies, they were silent instead. They would be a lot quieter.

February 17, 2022 2:14 am

From the abstract:-

“….. have contributed significally to ……. planetary warming ….. ”

Link to proof?

Richard M
Reply to  Oldseadog
February 17, 2022 6:00 am

As you already know, they don’t have any proof. In fact, all their evidence is simply that the planet has warmed over the past 150 years. Here’s what a real science experiment shows.

The trendline shows that there might be a very slight heating of the thermopile with CO2 in the front chamber. The experiment was repeated several times and the average increment with CO2 was ca 0.5%.

Reply to  Richard M
February 17, 2022 6:39 am

And – need to add some WV (water vapor) in there … whenerver I point my non-contact IR thermometer skyward (with its approx. 14 um wavelength sensor element) on ‘dry’ days the thing ‘bottoms out’ indicating below -55 deg C and whenever we have a higher RH (higher moisture content in the atmosphere) the thing shows maybe -20 deg C upwards to 0 or maybe +5 on a really humid, clear-sky day … SO WV has a really, really big influence in obscuring (this part of) what has been termed ‘the atmospheric window’ (to space) ..

Reply to  _Jim
February 19, 2022 2:50 pm

Years ago I was reading a blog and a poster mentioned that if CO2 had the effect claimed, a SCIENTIST could prove it by repeating the original determination of absolute zero with the original instruments and methods, and would get a different temperature for 0 since CO2 has increased.

Never been done.

That was my start to becoming a denier..

I think the next day I saw the hooky schtick and noted no MWP, that was the end of my transition to denier.

Willem post
February 17, 2022 3:35 am

Big oil, gas and coal are “listening” to RE nuts to show they are “open” to new ides, but they know these HEAVILY SUBSIDIZED RE “ideas” are full of bull manure.

The US would need about one month of electricity storage to cover everything.

Solar electricity is mainly a midday event, which means storage capacity, MWh, is required, because solar is zero at night.
Assume one month of storage. That number keeps appearing in various studies
US average monthly consumption is 4000/12 = 333.33 TWh.
During periods of strong winds and good sunshine, any electricity generated in excess of US demand would be stored.
During periods of weaker winds and poorer sunshine, any electricity generated short of US demand would be withdrawn from storage.
The battery must be operated between 15% full and 80% full, for long 15-y life, i.e., available battery capacity is 65%.
Turnkey Capital Costs of Site-specific, Custom-designed, Utility-grade, Grid-scale Battery Systems would be (333.33 billion kWh/0.65, available capacity) x $500/kWh, plus 25% aging at 1.5%/y, plus 10% contingency to cover scheduled and unscheduled outages = $353 TRILLION, most of it would be a recurring expense EVERY 15 YEARS
NOTE: Similar calculations for New England storage would be as shown in table 2. See Note

NOTE: Even if future storage costs would decrease to a Holy-Grail-low of $100/kWh, the capital cost would still be off-the-charts unaffordable
NOTE: Most “analysts”, including folks enthusiastically writing for trade magazines and newspapers, do not include 1) battery system aging, 2) battery operating losses, and 3) lifetime basis; lifetime means accounting for energy and CO2 emissions from mines/wells to disposal.

All is explained in this article


David Dibbell
February 17, 2022 3:40 am

From the abstract: “Until actions and investment behavior are brought into alignment with discourse, accusations of greenwashing appear well-founded.” OK then. The majors should just stop the misaligned discourse. Keep producing the fuels we all need, and snap out of the illusion that appeasement will work against the unsound attacks. There is no good reason to apologize for producing useful hydrocarbon products from natural deposits.

Dave Fair
Reply to  David Dibbell
February 17, 2022 11:11 am

Its what one gets when PR and marketing types take over management of a (formerly) successful company. Additionally, DIE (diversity, inclusion and environment) is an apt acronym for any company that must make profits. It takes a little longer for governments and non-profits to die from DIE.

Reply to  David Dibbell
February 17, 2022 4:52 pm

Why on Earth do these companies go for appeasement? Don’t they know that they will never ever gain any approval from any greenie for as long as they produce any useful products?

February 17, 2022 4:04 am

re: “Researchers Claim Proof …”

One word: Phrenology. (Or something similar) More fully explained: Phrenology practiced by phrenologists. Next up, the testing of ‘witches’ by whether they ‘float’ or not in water …

February 17, 2022 4:17 am

re: “Researchers Claim Proof Oil … ”

Researchers, now do “Big Green”, to wit, go watch Michael Moore’s production “Planet of the Humans” and get back to us, real soon now, ya’ hear?

Link (if you ‘greens’ need one):

February 17, 2022 4:21 am

Reminds me to thank God for Big Oil every time I fill up at the pump.

February 17, 2022 5:26 am

I believe the big new offshore wind farm off Massachusetts is a shell venture . Big oil isn’t stupid , they go where the money is .

February 17, 2022 5:32 am

Wasn’t Biden pleading with oil producers to step up supply ? Is this about cutting back on much needed ( at present ) supply or bigger investment in alternatives ? How come norways huge fossil fuel industry never gets criticized?

Albert H Brand
Reply to  Garboard
February 17, 2022 7:45 am

How huge can a fossil fuel industry be in a nation of 5 million souls. Those European countries are smaller than many of our states

Bob Hunter
Reply to  Albert H Brand
February 17, 2022 10:15 am

As well, Norway benefits with perfect topography for Hydro Electricity. Yet still is exploring for PNG for export in the Arctic Ocean.

February 17, 2022 6:40 am

Oh hooray! Do lets keep on kicking and kicking the fossil fuel industry!
Rather! There’s no danger of course that this can have the slightest conceivable effect on fuel (and thus food) prices.
Or fuel poverty, winter deaths etc.
Yay! – Where can I get my boot in? …

Tom Abbott
February 17, 2022 7:15 am

From the article: “They say fossil fuel production was maintained or increased by Chevron, Shell and BP between 2009 and 2020, despite committing to, or in Chevron’s case “aspiring to”, net-zero emissions by 2050 or before.”

That’s funny. They imply that these oil companies will no longer produce fossil fuels by 2050. What’s it going to be? Chevron Wind? Shell Solar?

I think some people have lost their minds over CO2.

Pat Frank
February 17, 2022 8:25 am

Email sent to study author Greg Trencher.

Subject: What Oil companies know about CO2 emissions

“Propagation of Error and the Reliability of Global Air Temperature Projections”

What do oil companies know about CO2 emissions and the climate? Nothing.
What does the IPCC know? Nothing
What you know: nothing.

Your whole thesis is misguided, Greg. You’ve been misled by a culture of incompetents.



Patrick Frank, Ph.D.
These things are, we conjecture, like the truth;
But as for certain truth, no one has known it.

          Xenophanes, 570-500 BCE

Reply to  Pat Frank
February 17, 2022 7:38 pm

We know as much as we did back in the #ExxonKnew days…

comment image

The climate models suck…😎

February 17, 2022 8:51 am

What do you expect? Big Oil wants to please its customers by making them feed important and virtuous. It also wants to maximize its profits.

February 17, 2022 9:53 am

The “researchers” start off with the false premise that the “clean energy claims of BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell” are indicative of “a shift away from fossil fuels.”

Reducing the “carbon intensity” of oil & gas production, transportation, refining and ultimate consumption doesn’t mean transitioning away from oil & gas production any more than reducing lead pollution via unleaded gasoline and catalytic converters meant transitioning away from gasoline powered motor vehicles in the 1970’s.

Chevron’s goal is to “achieve net zero upstream emissions (scope 1 and 2) by 2050.” Having a goal to achieve something by 2050 doesn’t mean that the goal has been achieved by 2022 or even that serious progress would have been made by 2022.

People still need oil & gas to survive and will continue to need it for decades to come. Governments and the investment community are increasingly demanding that our industry reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Our industry is finding ways to meet both demands at the same time. Although a significant stretch of $90/bbl oil and $20/mcf natural gas will probably reduce the pressure to decarbonize as quickly as these “researchers” would prefer.

Andy Pattullo
February 17, 2022 1:14 pm

So a good news story then. The people who produce our reliable energy have continued to do their best to meet market demands. I couldn’t be happier. Should they do otherwise our entire economy would collapse.

John in Oz
February 17, 2022 1:56 pm

A quote from the ‘green’ advocates that I can use:

we don’t really know what’s meant by clean energy,” Dr Trencher said. 
“There’s no industry accepted definition of this.”

Reply to  John in Oz
February 17, 2022 10:40 pm

Clean energy is defined by curtailment. Anything Greens curtail is not it and they clean up with what’s left.

February 17, 2022 6:12 pm

The oil companies are not the only ones. Every signatory to the Paris Climate Agreement lied. Every government setting CO2 reduction targets anywhere in the world is lying. The whole thing is a farce.

Thank God the oil companies are lying because they are actually important unlike most of the other liars.

Reply to  Chraya
February 17, 2022 7:26 pm

The oil companies aren’t lying, nor were they lying way back in the #Exxon Knew days.

The oil companies are telling the public what we are doing and going to do to continue producing oil & gas, while addressing the perceived need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

February 18, 2022 9:13 am

Considering the promotion of Green policies by the major oil conglomerates, I am moved to consider that they are only supporting said policies to keep the price of their products high.

Put simply; the higher the cost of oil, the bigger the profits to be made.

Well, it makes perfect sense to me.

February 18, 2022 11:23 pm

Is there anyone not lying about their climate commitment? Great? Greenpeace? Pick one. Extinction Rebellion protesters showing up wearing North Face gear?

Verified by MonsterInsights