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Reuters: FACTBOX-Where the Oil Majors stand on global warming

Fri Feb 23, 2007

The western oil majors’ have gradually moved toward accepting that burning oil and gas is a main cause of climate change but views on global warming and what to do about it still vary across the industry. Almost all scientists agree that a rise of CO2 in the atmosphere is heating the planet and that the rise is likely primarily caused by human activity, especially burning hydrocarbons.

Environmentalists want governments to force cuts in emissions of heat-trapping gases.

Some business leaders oppose capping companies’ emissions. Others support caps, providing they are accompanied by mechanisms that allow firms which exceed their targets to buy credits from businesses that undershoot their caps.

The following is a list of the positions of the largest non-government controlled oil companies in the world.

EXXON MOBIL CORP (XOM.N: Quote, Profile , Research)

The world’s largest fully publicly traded oil company in the world by market capitalisation has softened its stance on global warming under Chief Executive Rex Tillerson but still expresses more scepticism and advises more caution on policy moves than rivals, analysts and environmentalists said.

Exxon accepts that the earth’s climate has warmed and that the risks from climate change “could prove significant”.

However the Houston-based company emphasises there is uncertainty over the issue, namely the extent to which burning hydrocarbons has led to the rise in CO2 levels and the link between the rise in greenhouse gases and higher temperatures.

Exxon has been hostile to regulatory caps on CO2 emissions such as the European emissions trading scheme (ETS) and government subsidies for renewable energy like biofuels.

Tillerson, who took the top job in 2006, said in February that any regulatory schemes to cut CO2 should be global, echoing Washington’s position that the U.S. should not adopt CO2 limits unless developing countries like China do likewise.

ROYAL DUTCH SHELL PLC (RDSa.L: Quote, Profile , Research)

Anglo-Dutch Shell, the second-largest oil major, accepts that burning hydrocarbons is likely contributing to global warming.

The Hague-based company supports market-based “cap and trade” schemes to limit emissions, even if they are regional, like the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).

Shell wants governments to provide tax or other fiscal incentives for renewables and to encourage storage of CO2 in underground reservoirs such as depleted oil fields. 

BP PLC (BP.L: Quote, Profile , Research)

London-based BP was the first of the top tier of Western oil companies to accept that global warming was occurring and that the burning of fossil fuels was likely a main cause.

BP Chief Executive John Browne has repeatedly said he believes the cost of emitting CO2 should be “internalised”, an economic term that means the polluter should pay to emit CO2.

Nonetheless, the third-biggest western oil company opposed U.S. legislation in 2005 that included a provision for CO2 caps. Browne said this was because of other provisions in the bill and that BP still supports mandatory limits.

TOTAL SA (TOTF.PA: Quote, Profile , Research)

Paris-based Total accepts that human activity is likely raising CO2 levels and contributing to climate change.

The company also favours government support for projects to store or limit the emission of CO2.

The fourth largest oil major is the only oil major to express concern about whether the world is running out of oil.

Total doubts the industry’s ability to boost conventional oil production above 100 million barrels per day (bpd) despite the International Energy Agency predicting demand will rise to over 120 million bpd by 2030, from 85 million bpd in 2006.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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