Big Oil is coming to town, and it’s here for one thing: to talk money.
As the industry continues to suffer what Forbes describes as the “worst oil crash in a generation”, execs need to work out new ways to turn a profit, and fast.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, hundreds of industry executives will gather in London at the InterContinental Park Lane Hotel for the Oil and Money conference, with sponsors including ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Chevron, Total and Saudi Aramco.
The annual shindig pitches itself as “the energy industry’s premier conference”, and attracts top officials from the world’s biggest companies.
They’re set to discuss how to keep their businesses alive in a world with cheap oil, wavering demand, and a march towards decarbonisation. Strangely, it looks like talk of the risks that climate change and a carbon bubble pose to their businesses failed to make the agenda.
It’s quite a cast that’s assembling.
Among the conference’s esteemed guests is Rex Tillerson, CEO of oil giant ExxonMobil. While Tillerson claims his views on climate change are “in line with the UN”, the company has contributed more than $33 million to organisations promoting climate denial since 1998.
This is despite the company being shown to know about the harmful effects of greenhouse gas emissions from its products since the 1970s, as uncovered by DeSmogBlog.
More recently, the company has been caught lobbying against electric vehicles, a DeSmog UK investigation shows.
Exxon-competitor Conoco Phillips is also sending CEO Ryan Lance to give a keynote address. Lance was appointed Chair of the Board of the American Petroleum Institute earlier this year, an organisation that has been involved in promoting “uncertainty” about climate change for decades.
Chevron CEO, John Watson, will also be there, despite the company being embroiled in the Canadian courts. The state is considering freezing Chevron’s Canadian assets over the company’s alleged part in dumping toxic mess in Ecuador.
Plenty of other figures are also being used as poster boys – and the speakers are almost all men – for the conference, with representatives for Royal Dutch Shell, BP, and Total all participating.
Shell spent $22 million in 2015 alone combating climate legislation. Total and BP are both members of the secretive EU breakfast group, AMSIA2, which lobbies officials on EU energy policy, and was uncovered by DeSmog UK earlier this year.
Cosying up to these US figureheads will be counterparts from rather unfriendly state-owned companies such as Saudi Aramco, the Bahranian Petroleum Company, and Russia’s Gazprom and Rosneft.
It seems unlikely that climate change will be a strong feature of the discussions, despite the fact that business-as-usual is not an option in a post-Paris Agreement world.
In fact, only one scheduled session looks set to mention climate change at all – a discussion about how the industry should respond to the landmark Paris Agreement. But, unlike almost all the other sessions, the panel won’t include an oil rep.
Most sessions are set to focus on technological advancements to drag the industry out of its current mire. That includes new kit to allow further ultra-deepwater drilling, despite BP recently abandoning such a project in the Great Australian Bight.
Given the lack of attention to climate change, it’s perhaps odd to see the New York Times listed as a co-host alongside the Big Oil sponsors.
Just after governments signed the Paris Agreement, and as Congress was considering lifting a ban on oil exports, a New York Times editorial called for lawmakers to “invest in the technologies needed to move to a world beyond fossil fuels”. These are the antithesis of the technologies due to be discussed at the conference.
A New York Times spokesperson tells DeSmog UK that “New York Times Conferences (including the co-hosted Oil and Money conference) are run by a team on the business-side of The New York Times Company. Our newsroom has complete editorial independence in all areas of coverage. Any suggestion otherwise is simply untrue”.
They declined to give further details about the deal the New York Times company has with the conference, including any financial contributions or access arrangements.
Oddly, given the conference is being co-hosted by a media company, DeSmog UK was declined a press pass for the event due to “limited” space. The conference organisers did not respond to a request for comment.
So get ready for a Big Oil meeting focusing on industry survival, with barely a mention of climate change, conducted behind net curtains – what could go wrong?
Photo: Garry Knight via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY–SA)