The world’s largest oil companies have in recent weeks announced a series of “green” investments – in wind farms, electric battery storage systems and carbon capture and storage (CCS). These unexpected moves come hot on the heels of revelations by Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, that it plans to sell off parts of its national oil company and diversify its economy away from petroleum.
They also come in the aftermath of a United Nations climate change agreementand before annual general meetings for Shell and Exxon Mobil this week, meetings at which shareholders will demand that more be done to tackle climate change.
So has the fossil fuel industry finally woken up to the dangers posed to their futures by a move to a low-carbon world, or is this all “greenwash” – relatively insignificant investments designed to shake off critics?
Or does it just make good business sense for Big Oil to do this at a time when oil prices are low, renewable projects look like steady long-term investments, and green businesses can be snapped up on the cheap?
Some of the moves certainly have serious amounts of cash behind them. Total of France, for instance, announced two weeks ago that it planned to spend nearly €1bn on buying 100-year-old battery manufacturer Saft. Chairman and chief executive Patrick Pouyanné said the deal would “allow us to complement our portfolio with electricity storage solutions, a key component of the future growth of renewable energy”.
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