Posts tagged “ExxonMobil”
Sometimes the written word is easy to misinterpret. More than once I have written an article to find that some minor point I made became the focus, or that the point I was making was just lost. Most of the time that’s my fault, but sometimes it’s because an editor wanted to spice up the title and make it a bit more controversial. In that case, that can inflame the reader before they even begin to read, and they either make comments based on a misleading title, or they read the article with significant bias.
I think there is a risk of misinterpretation with today’s article, so I want to spell out my intent up front. This should not be read as a defense of ExxonMobil or their business practices, because that’s not what it is. It’s an attempt to get the reader to understand how they think, and why they do some of the things they do. Importantly, you may not be able to understand their actions given your view of the world. It’s not because they are simply denying reality so they can keep making money, they just don’t see the same things you see. Here is my attempt to explain that.
A Carbon Asset Bubble?
The 2009 Copenhagen Accord on climate change stipulated that if the worst impacts of climate change are to be avoided, we have to stop taking fossil fuels from the ground and burning them. Doing so has been increasing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for the past two centuries. Former Vice President Al Gore has been but one high profile voice advocating for leaving those fossil fuels in the ground, which would create a big problem for fossil fuel companies whose value is based on their fossil fuel reserves. Gore outlined his position last year in a Wall Street Journal editorial The Coming Carbon Asset Bubble. CONTINUE»
Shareholders Quiz ExxonMobil on Climate Risks
Last fall I devoted a lengthy post to the notion that future policies to address climate change expose investors in companies producing fossil fuels to a bubble in asset valuations. So I was particularly interested to see that ExxonMobil (XOM) issued a report this week responding to specific shareholder concerns along these lines. Although the term “carbon asset bubble” did not appear in XOM’s report, the latter’s references to carbon budgets and the risk of stranded assets in a low-carbon scenario were aimed directly at this emerging meme.
Unsurprisingly, ExxonMobil’s management reassured investors that, “none of our hydrocarbon reserves are now or will become ‘stranded’.” Wisely avoiding past tendencies to question interpretations of climate science, the company’s analysis appears to be grounded in mainstream views of climate change. It focuses on the costs and achievability of an extreme low-carbon scenario, and on the resilience of the company’s portfolio under various climate policies.
You Can’t Get There from Here without Breaking the Economy Again
XOM’s analysis is based on the company’s latest Outlook for Energy, an annual global forecast broadly similar to the main “New Policies” scenario of the International Energy Agency (IEA). It has fewer similarities to the IEA’s “450″ scenario that underpins carbon bubble claims. The company expects energy demand to grow at an average of about 1% annually over the next three decades–faster than population but much slower than the global economy–with increasing efficiency and a gradual shift toward lower-emission energy sources: Gas increases faster than oil and by more BTUs in total, while coal grows for a while longer but then shrinks back to current levels. Renewables grow fastest of all, producing about as much energy in 2040 as nuclear power does today. As a result of these shifts global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions peak around 2030 and then decline gradually.
Chemicals and Fertilizer Industries
In last week’s post Who Wins from Rising Natural Gas Prices?, I discussed the sectors that would benefit from rising natural gas prices. This week, let’s talk about the potential losers.
Natural gas is an important feedstock for the chemicals and fertilizer industries, so higher prices could pressure those sectors. Oil companies with significant chemical operations could also see this business segment take a hit, but based on ExxonMobil’s (NYSE: XOM) advocacy of liquified natural gas (LNG) exports, it clearly believes the net effect of rising natural gas prices on the company would be positive.
Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW), on the other hand, has come out strongly against LNG exports because of the potential cost to its own business and that of other heavy users of natural gas. Ironically, last week the Department of Energy granted a permit to a facility called Freeport LNG — in which Dow owns a 15% stake. Dow’s answer to that is that they invested in the facility when it was supposed to be an LNG import facility.
But the risks to the chemicals and fertilizer industries are well-known. What isn’t as well-known is the risk from higher natural gas prices to the biofuels sector. This may be counterintuitive, since renewables like wind and solar power become more competitive as natural gas prices increase. CONTINUE»
Over the past two years the spot price of natural gas fell from nearly $5 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in June 2011 to less than $2 per MMBtu in April 2012, before beginning a steady climb back to the current level of about $4 per MMBtu. Prices have been supported by resilient demand as well as diminishing supply from some of the more mature shale formations and the depleted wells offshore.
Stronger natural gas prices are good news for some and bad news for others. Natural gas producers like Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK) were hit especially hard as gas prices fell. Between June 2011 and April 2012, CHK’s share price declined 25 percent. But over the past 12 months, CHK has rallied 36 percent as gas prices recovered. Since Chesapeake is the nation’s second-largest producer of natural gas, it’s not surprising that its shares track the price of the commodity. The company isn’t diversified, so it is nearly a pure play on natural gas.
A new report released this week by fuel giant Exxon says the energy production revival in the United States will continue into the far future, confirming the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) prediction that the country will become a new exporter of energy by 2025.
The annual long-term energy report outlines Exxon’s view of the surging American energy sector, taking into account new production in both the U.S. and Canada, along with increased energy efficiency and expanded distribution networks, in determining the country’s energetic future, with the report also noting that generally flat demand around the developed world is expected over the next 10-15 years. (Read More: U.S. Energy Production to Hit Record Highs)
In my travels around the globe, I have never been to another country that regards their oil companies as we do here in the U.S. I have actually been in countries where people view their domestic oil companies as a source of national pride. Here in the U.S., the average person on the street views our oil companies as vile, greedy parasites on taxpayers that should be tarred, feathered, and run right out of the country. While this belief is commonly held among Democrats, even staunch Conservatives like Bill O’Reilly have gone on anti-oil company rants, while offering suggestions like “American oil companies must supply the federal government with a written explanation every time they raise the price of gas… Continue»
As I noted in a previous essay, rising gas prices inevitably mean that our political leaders start looking to assign blame. The annual ritual has been to call the CEOs of the biggest oil companies in the U.S. to Washington so politicians can engage in a bit of political theater. The 2011 dog and pony show has now been scheduled: Oil-industry CEOs to get grilled by Congress At a Senate hearing, the CEOs will be pressed to explain why gasoline prices are so high — they average nearly $4 in most places and have topped $5 a gallon in few cities. Democrats are also planning to pressure the companies to renounce long-standing government subsidies totaling billions of dollars a year…. Continue»
It is no secret that consumers are suffering from very high gasoline prices. And as a result of these high prices, ExxonMobil just reported a first-quarter profit of $10.7 billion — 69 percent higher than a year ago. The national level of disgust and anger is approaching record levels as we watch the loss of our hard-earned dollars become Big Oil’s gain. The question is, what are we going to do about it? Before discussing how to deal with this, we should first discuss what it is that we are actually trying to do. I believe the very simplistic view is that by going after the oil companies, they are going to relent and lower gas prices. Thus, their profits… Continue»
Company officials say they would be happy to give up the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit provided it is eliminated across the entire industry.
My vacation is over, so it’s back to work. I am still working on the followup to the MixAlco story, but there is a lot of material to digest. I am exchanging e-mails with Professor Holtzapple just now, trying to get answers to questions around the energy balance and overall conversion efficiency. As soon as those are resolved, I will publish the story. One of the things I try to offer readers is an objective, timely analysis of happenings in the world of energy. For example, take the recent stories I wrote on BP. Shortly after the accident in the Gulf of Mexico, I wrote The Wake Up Call on the BP Drilling Disaster in which I predicted huge political… Continue»