Big Oil Releases Report Exposing Continued Refusal To Invest In Renewables

A new report commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute (API) focuses on their finding that of $132.9 billion invested by US public and private sectors in greenhouse gas-mitigating technologies from 2000 to 2008, $58.4 billion came from the oil and gas industry. While API called the oil and gas industry’s investment “pretty impressive,” their report just reinforces that Big Oil has all the wrong priorities:

Kyle Isakower, API’s director of policy analysis, called the oil and gas companies’ $58.4 billion investment a “pretty impressive” number when put in context. “Our members’ primary responsibility is to be able to provide the fuels our country needs,” Isakower explained.

Let’s put this investment into context. The claim that the oil and gas industry invested $58.4 billion in clean energy technologies from 2000 to 2008 is overstated — about ten times over. API lumped in spending on renewable technologies with other “alternative” energies to exaggerate their purported commitment to renewable energy. In fact, the oil and gas industry spent only $6.7 billion on “non-hydrocarbon technology” including ethanol, wind, and solar. $21.1 billion of the $58.4 billion, or more than a third, was invested in liquefied natural gas, yet another fossil fuel. Another $30.6 billion went “mostly to energy efficiency.” Their total investment in renewable energy was little more than a tenth of the $58.4 billion “investments to cut greenhouse gases.”

The oil and gas industry has long invested only a small percentage of their profits in renewable and alternative energy ventures. The API-commissioned report from T2 and Associates and the Center for Energy Economics at the University of Texas leaves out any accounting of total oil and gas profits, which totaled over $100 billion in 2008 for the top five companies alone. Analysis from the Center for American Progress showed that these top five oil companies — BP, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell — committed just 4 percent of their total profits to low-carbon investments in 2008. Exxon-Mobil, the biggest of the big oil companies, made more than $45 billion in net income in 2008 — and invested less than 1 percent of its profits in renewable energy. In fact, the API report reveals that the entire oil and gas industry is as bad as or worse than Exxon when it comes to under-investing in renewable energy:


Big Oil Invested Less Than One Percent Of 2000–2008 Profits In Renewables. The top five oil companies raked in $656 billion from 2000 to 2008, meaning that the $6.7 billion investment by the entire US oil and gas industry in renewable energy represents just 1 percent of the profits of the top five oil companies alone. [API, CAP]

Other examples of Big Oil’s attempt to inflate their commitment to renewable energy include multi-million dollar investments in advertising and “green-washing” campaigns, despite investing heavily in organizations that question the existence of global warming. In 2007, Exxon-Mobil spent $100 million on advertising, producing ads that focused on global warming, efficiency, and alternative energy. Chevron has created an “I Will” ad campaign in spite of its record of investing only 5 percent of its $23.9 billion in profits in renewable energy in 2008.