Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

28 May 2021

What’s in a name?

Posted by Michael Keating

The oil industry is under so much pressure to clean up that some businesses are rebranding themselves. This week the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors became the Canadian Association of Energy Contractors. In France the oil giant, Total, changed its name to TotalEnergies, saying it will invest more in solar and wind energy, using revenues from its oil business. The question is whether the name changes signal real cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. In 2001, the oil giant BP rebranded itself from British Petroleum to “beyond petroleum.” I asked a BP executive if this meant the company was getting out of the oil business. He gave me a horrified look and said BP was investing in renewable energy but still intended to pump and sell as much oil as it could. A decade later, BP sold off many solar and wind assets to deal with financial problems caused by a gigantic oil spill. More recently it has once again promised to invest in renewable energy.

The name changes are one more signal the once-stable industry is in a historic period of change. In The Netherlands a court ruled that Royal Dutch Shell must accelerate its planned emission cuts. This was the result of a lawsuit by Friends of the Earth and thousands of Dutch citizens. On the same day shareholders voted to nominate two climate activists to the board of ExxonMobil, while Chevron shareholders voted for a proposal to cut emissions generated by its oil and gas products.

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