That’s the amount that Exxon Mobile executives announced today that the company made in profit so far this year. Not revenue, profit. A remarkable number that eclipses most major industries, let alone single companies.
Now, before I go further, I should point out this is MUCH more Pam’s wheelhouse than mine. She used to work for a fossil fuel company that should not be named. Suffice to say she’s done her time on oil rigs. That’s just how she rolls.
With that on the table, I’ll also spare you the obvious media blather about how oil companies make SO MUCH money and with gas prices being SO HIGH, we should publicly shame them. President Obama has even retaken the traditional mantle lately among Democrats of decrying oil companies and threatening to remove their subsidies.
No, this is a different argument.
Environmentalists believe that these companies make tons of money. And they believe that they don’t need handouts from taxpayers. Before we can reasonable have green and clean energy, we need to get rid of big oil barons and invest in small solar start-ups, they say. But what if companies like Exxon really are the key to transitioning to renewable energy?
I know, I know. Stay with me for a minute.
These companies will tell you that they’re energy companies, not oil companies. They’ll bet on whatever technology makes the most financial success. For now it’s oil and gas. There’s lots of it out there and high demand for it. But perhaps eventually it will be solar, wind or even something crazy like nuclear fusion.
Over the past few years, Exxon has spent about 5 percent of its annual profits on renewable energy research development. It’s a small percentage — could it be more? Of course! — but it usually amounts to a couple billion dollars. Shell, BP and Chevron have done the same. An analysis by the left-leaning Center for American Progress a few years ago revealed that the five biggest oil companies have traditionally devoted about 4 percent of their annual profits to renewable and energy ventures.
I’m not saying these companies are completely benevolent. We all know the have committed pretty egregious environmental snafus. Exxon Valdez, you might remember. Or the BP Gulf Oil spill in 2010. They have their own PR shops and can handle themselves just fine.
What I’m saying is that the amount of money, capital and energy know-how these folks have really is unmatched. And if clean power and energy efficiency are the real goal for us green watchers, these guys are in the best position to invest heavily in new technology. It’s a unique opportunity for companies with LOTS of cash hanging around and interest in making even more money in the future–a future where oil and gas have dried up. The only unknown factor is whether public pressure will become strong enough to make them do it.