Show an ad over header. AMP

I am the FIRST

Day's worth of climate news brings earthquake for Big Oil

A rat-tat-tat burst of events Wednesday could mark a turning point in pressure against Big Oil to act more aggressively on global warming.

Catch up fast: In a span of hours, ExxonMobil shareholders voted to add at least two new board members nominated by activist investors (a third nominee's vote is outstanding).


  • Chevron shareholders backed a resolution urging emissions cuts from use of its products in the economy, called Scope 3.
  • Royal Dutch Shell was ordered by a Dutch court to slash emissions well beyond current plans.

Why it matters: The investor votes, especially after Exxon's intense fight against the activist slate, make crystal clear that mainstream finance wants stronger steps on climate.

  • In one sign of this trend, asset management giant BlackRock voted for three of the four insurgent directors nominated by the investment group Engine No. 1.

Meanwhile, the Dutch court decision is the first to order a major oil company to make its emissions plans more consistent with the Paris Climate agreement targets.

  • It could spur legal action against other oil and gas firms, but also other industrial giants too.
  • “This case does open the door for challenges to other energy-intensive sectors,” Liz Hypes, an analyst with the consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, tells the Wall Street Journal.

What they're saying: Energy experts tell Axios the court ruling and Exxon votes illustrate what could be a significant shift.

  • They "reflect the growing societal expectations that oil firms be able to demonstrate their business strategies are aligned with our long-term climate goals and resilient to climate risk," says Jason Bordoff, who heads a Columbia University energy think tank.
  • "The era of 'always be drilling' oil major capex has clearly come to an end with today's events. Investors are betting there are profitable ways for legacy energy companies to transform themselves in alignment with the net zero [emissions] imperative," says climate finance expert Daniel Firger, managing director at Great Circle Capital Advisors.

Yes, but: The substantive effects of Wednesday's action won't be known for a long time.

  • It's impossible to say, for now, how much influence Exxon's small share of new board members will have on the company's direction.
  • Shell said it would appeal the decision in a statement that also touted its existing near-term targets and its plan to become a "net-zero" emitter by 2050.

Here's a little more from Bordoff, who was an energy aide in the Obama White House, on the rising climate pressure on oil majors:

  • "It is important to note that if the response is for companies to sell oil assets in order to reduce emissions from the oil they produce, global emissions will not decline if others just buy those assets and produce the oil, which is why it is urgent that policy and technology start to curb oil use that is still rising year after year."

Go deeper: Biden administration backs Trump-era Alaska oil drilling plans

Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

Keep reading... Show less

Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

Keep reading... Show less

Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

Keep reading... Show less

Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

Keep reading... Show less

"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

Keep reading... Show less

What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories