ExxonMobil is Lying to You About Carbon Solutions
BY KATIE BABSON
As the White House’s climate agenda faces severe backlash over contested budget resolutions, concerns regarding economic complications, and public criticism over purported unrealistic climate goals, ExxonMobil has offered the American government a climate deal. On October 12, 2022, Louisiana Democratic Governor, John Bel Edwards, announced a major decarbonization collaboration. He stated that ExxonMobil has committed to implement a project that will capture carbon emitted by CF Industries, a major manufacturer and distributor of agricultural fertilizers, in the state of Louisiana. The deal calls for Exxon to capture and remove 2 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. Exxon also revealed they will transport the carbon via Enlink Midstream, an energy corporation that transports gas and oil, to a permanent underground facility controlled by Exxon themselves. This carbon capture and storage project is expected to begin in 2025, being hailed as an era of carbon manufacturers seeking solutions to carbon emissions.
Governor Edwards described this effort as “unprecedented” and highlights that the recently passed incentive provisions listed in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) can help reduce carbon emissions through tax breaks. Continuing, Governor Edwards also asserted that the expenditures to capture and store carbon “at this scale reaffirms [Louisiana’s] ability to grow our economy without sacrificing our long-term emission-reduction goals to net zero by 2050.” This exemplifies the efforts being taken to meet President Biden’s climate agenda, which includes pushing for the U.S. to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 across all economic sectors. Thus, the IRA has shown that incentives may encourage corporations to curb emissions by expanding tax credits to capture carbon and offset the costs of manufacturing these plants. Yet, Exxon’s carbon capture project is not a real solution driven to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is motivated by public relations.
In the wake of science demonstrating unprecedented rapid global warming and international agencies calling for climate action, this deal is a blatant effort by ExxonMobil to reduce tense dialogues with potential investors who raise concerns regarding increasingly bloated carbon emissions, as well as stakeholders striving to maintain a clean, sanitized image and preserve their bottom-line. Exxon has stated they want to develop carbon capture methods to participate in the expanding emissions reduction market, pledging to remove as much carbon in the atmosphere that Exxon emits by 2050. Additionally, Exxon has justified using carbon capture and storage as a way to combat increasing greenhouse gas emissions because, as they claim, the company has always been “a supporter of the Paris Agreement since its inception”.
However, Exxon’s altruistic description of being “supporter” of the Paris Agreement to reduce climate emissions is dubious. As recently as 2021, ExxonMobil Chief Executive and Chairman, Darren Woods, was accused of lying to the Congressional House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Under oath, Woods vehemently denied that Exxon hid their research on the correlation between adverse climate outcomes and fossil fuels. He asserted ExxonMobil had no hand in discrediting and denying evidence of fossil fuel combustion contributing directly to global warming. Yet, this is a shameless lie. Previous Exxon CEO, Lee Raymond, explicitly stated that scientific evidence for climate change was “inconclusive” and minimized scientific evidence because “the case for global warming is far from air tight”. Despite this, since the 1970s, Exxon’s own scientists repeatedly warned the company about the looming threat of fossil fuel combustion. The Congressional Committee pressed Woods, stating that “[there] is a clear conflict between what Exxon CEO told the public and what Exxon scientists were warning privately for years.” This blatantly highlights that ExxonMobil has an incentive to portray themselves as an environmentally conscious company that seeks to reduce carbon emissions, despite an extensive record of misrepresentation and perpetual lies. Thus, Exxon climate ‘activism’ raises serious questions regarding their intent surrounding efforts to rely on carbon capture rather than reduce fossil fuel usage.
Nevertheless, climate activists have continued to criticize the underlying nature of carbon capture and storage, with its plausibility as an effective solution being hotly debated. Exxon’s climate deal is a surface level attempt to address public backlash for contributing to carbon emissions and still enables them to continue selling fossil fuels. Although carbon capture efforts may be effective, they are exceedingly expensive. This is especially apparent as more research is necessary to find cost effective methods, as well as the substantial price to develop such infrastructure. In addition, there will be huge, enduring costs to operating such a plant and would require constant maintenance. Additionally, carbon capture methods are incredibly slow to reduce global temperatures and would only diminish the emissions Exxon itself produces, meaning their project would not remove the fossil fuels emitted by their consumers. Alongside this, Exxon’s carbon capture proposal also raises inquires as to the total amount of emissions that will be released from constructing the project and whether it can be implemented on a large, cost-effective scale.
Even if such projects could be replicated on an enormous and inexpensive scale, this fails to address the only solution for mitigating global warming: to permanently cut down emissions by eliminating fossil fuel usage. Exxon’s support for carbon capture is an ineffective strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions long-term. Yet, ExxonMobil claims that by relying on carbon capture projects that collaborate with governments, people do not have to worry about contributing to climate change. This permits fossil fuel corporations, investors, and consumers to continue their lifestyle under the pretense that there will be no consequences. But this is a lie to preserve positive public relations. With alleged ‘quick-fixes’ to addressing carbon emissions, fossil fuel companies are allowed to reap massive profits by perpetuating this deceptive idea.
Despite the reassuring falsehood that reducing emissions is not necessary to mitigate climate change, it remains imperative that fossil fuel companies are held accountable for their exorbitant carbon emissions and contributions to global warming. As climate change reaches a destructive level globally, drastically cutting carbon emissions is the only effective long-term solution. Carbon capture alone is an implausible method to mitigate climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, there must not only be arrangements between governments and fossil fuel corporations to not only cut emissions, but also expansions of fossil fuel corporations’ pre-existing renewable energy departments. This can be done by increasing subsidies and tax credits already offered through the IRA for companies to pivot towards renewable energy, as well as imposing severe penalties on corporations that exceed a set standard for permissible carbon emissions. By lying to the public that carbon capture and storage is the true way to prevent irreparable climate catastrophe and quickly fix the environment, ExxonMobil is allowed to continue accumulating enormous profits with little regard for the climate.