Show an ad over header. AMP

Two major oil companies are coming under scrutiny as they navigate movement toward lower-carbon sources

Two huge oil companies charting different paths through the industry's uneven movement toward lower-carbon sources are both coming under fresh — but different — forms of pressure and scrutiny.

Driving the news: The Financial Times scooped yesterday that several clean energy executives have left Shell "amid a split over how far and fast the oil giant should shift towards greener fuels."


  • Meanwhile, ExxonMobil, which rejects the emissions targets and diversification of European peers, faces a new push by outside investors seeking stronger steps on climate — including new board members.

Why it matters: Oil giants' balance sheets and power mean that their decisions will influence the pace of the global movement toward cleaner sources (though it's also easy to overstate their sway).

Where it stands: Shell months ago pledged to become a "net-zero emissions" company by 2050, and for years has been moving into renewables, EV charging and other spaces outside oil and gas, which remain its dominant products.But Shell intends to remain a massive oil and natural gas producer for a long time.

  • The FT reports: "Some executives have pushed for a more aggressive shift from oil but top management is more inclined to stick closer to the company’s current path."
  • Departures include: "Marc van Gerven, who headed the solar, storage and on-shore wind businesses at Shell, Eric Bradley, who worked in Shell’s distributed energy division, and Katherine Dixon, a leader in its energy transition strategy team."

Quick take: One trend in recent years is employees within corporate giants including Amazon and Microsoft pushing for stronger climate policies — and going public with criticisms.

  • So keep an eye on whether and how much this becomes a thing within the oil and gas sector.

The intrigue: This week is also bringing new pressure on Exxon that's due to investor pique over its financial performance in recent years and related concern that its climate posture leaves it poorly positioned.

  • The investment group Engine No. 1 just launched a shareholder push to place four new directors on Exxon's board. One is Anders Runevad, former CEO of wind turbine heavyweight Vestas, and another is Alexander Karsner, a senior strategist with X, the "moonshot factory" of Google parent Alphabet.
  • The big California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which Engine No. 1 says holds over $300 million in Exxon shares, is backing the effort.

If changes happen...

Speaking of pressure on oil majors, it'll be interesting to see if this effort around Exxon gains traction.

Between the lines: Shareholder bids to force big changes in energy companies' direction are usually batted aside and voted down.

  • One thing to watch is whether other major shareholders, such as BlackRock (which declined comment), get behind it.

What's happening: A growing number of big financial players have joined the umbrella group Climate Action 100+, an investor network that pushes companies to make new disclosures and emissions commitments.

  • But membership doesn't require them to support specific shareholder resolutions.

What they're saying: Mindy Lubber, CEO of the sustainable investment group Ceres that works with Climate Action 100+, says the Engine No. 1 effort is "consistent" with the umbrella group's goals.

  • "[W]e anticipate that Climate Action 100+ investors will welcome the opportunity to scrutinize a new slate of directors and their plans to address the significant risks of climate change to shareholder value," she tells Axios.

FDA authorizes Johnson & Johnson's one-shot COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

The Food and Drugs Administration on Saturdayissued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: The authorization of a third coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. will help speed up the vaccine rollout across the country, especially since the J&J shot only requires one dose as opposed to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech's two-shot vaccines.

Keep reading... Show less

Italy tightens COVID restrictions for 5 regions amid warnings of a growing prevalence of variants

Italy on Saturday announced it was tightening restrictions in five of the country's 20 regions in an effort curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Driving the news: The announcement comes as health experts and scientists warn of the more transmissible coronavirus variants, per Reuters.

Keep reading... Show less

Palestinian Authority announces new COVID restrictions as cases surge

The Palestinian Authority on Saturday announced fresh coronavirus restrictions, including a partial lockdown, for the occupied West Bank as COVID-19 cases surge.

The big picture: The new measures come as Israel, which leads the world in vaccinations, faces increased pressure to ensure Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have equal access to vaccines.

Keep reading... Show less

Myanmar military fires UN ambassador after anti-coup speech

Myanmar's military regime on Saturday fired the country's Ambassador to the United Nations, Kyaw Moe Tun, a day after he gave a pro-democracy speech asking UN member nations to publicly condemn the Feb. 1 coup, The New York Times reports.

Details: State television said the ambassador had "betrayed the country and spoken for an unofficial organization which doesn’t represent the country and had abused the power and responsibilities of an ambassador."

Keep reading... Show less

Scoop: Biden admin call on Putin pipeline provokes GOP anger

A briefing between the State Department and congressional staff over Vladimir Putin's Russia-Germany gas pipeline got tense this week, with Biden officials deflecting questions about why they hadn't moved faster and more aggressively with sanctions tostop its completion.

  • The Biden officials also denied negotiating with the Germans over a potential side deal to allow the pipeline to be finished.
Keep reading... Show less

Warren Buffett calls American progress "discouraging," but isn't betting against it

Warren Buffett called progress in America "slow, uneven and often discouraging," but retained his long-term optimism in the country, in his closely watched annual shareholder letter released Saturday morning.

Why it matters: It breaks months of uncharacteristic silence from the 90-year-old billionaire Berkshire Hathaway CEO — as the fragile economy coped with the pandemic and the U.S. saw a contentious presidential election.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories