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Exxon, Chevron face climate protests, reject new resolutions

Houston Chronicle logo Houston Chronicle 5/29/2019 Jordan Blum, Houston Chronicle
a man wearing a suit and tie: ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods speaking at a March 2017 appearance for CERA Week in Houston. With 400 drilling permits filed in 2018, the Irving-based company is ranked as the number three driller in Texas.© Melissa Phillip, Staff / Houston Chronicle

ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods speaking at a March 2017 appearance for CERA Week in Houston. With 400 drilling permits filed in 2018, the Irving-based company is ranked as the number three driller in Texas.

Exxon Mobil and Chevron both faced protests from environmental activists and some shareholders at their annual meetings Wednesday as they face increasing pressure to do more to combat climate change.

The United States' two largest energy companies have received criticism for lagging behind their European peers like Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Total for not standing as firm on climate change goals and resolutions. Shell went a step further and recently linked executive pay to carbon emission goals.

While Exxon and Chevron both announced new emissions reduction plans in recent months, Exxon Mobil shareholders still easily rejected climate-related resolutions, with none receiving more than 30 percent support. One resolution, asking to create a climate change committee, didn't even garner 10 percent of the votes.

A resolution that asked to separate the chairman and chief executive roles held by Darren Woods also failed, but it did receive nearly 41 percent of the votes.

Woods reiterated Exxon's support for a carbon tax to help incentivize emissions reductions. But he argued that global energy demand will keep growing and the world will need more fossil fuels for electricity, transportation and much more. Exxon is working to produce the oil, gas and fuel much more cleanly, he said.

RELATED: Exxon Mobil investing $100M in national labs for emissions reductions

"We're doing our part to fulfill society's dual challenge," Woods said, referencing the demand for more, but cleaner energy.

Edward Mason, head of responsible investment at the Church Commissioners for England, was sharply critical of Exxon though, arguing that Exxon's progress is "painfully slow" and lagging woefully behind its European rivals on climate change.

Natasha Lamb, of Arjuna Capital, challenged Exxon's assessment that more, not less, oil and gas will be needed in the future.

"Climate change poses an emergency threat to the human race, the global economy and the future of our company," Lamb said.

Responding to the criticism, Woods highlighted Exxon's emission-reduction progress, its work on algae-based biofuels and its efforts to develop more carbon-capture technologies.

Exxon, headquartered in Irving, has received scrutiny in recent years, including facing accusations — which the company has denied — that it knew about the climate repercussions of its business in the 1980s but hid the evidence.

Within the past couple of years, both Exxon Mobil and California-based Chevron have taken steadily stronger stances acknowledging the risks of climate change and have implemented steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution from their operations.

Exxon pledged a broader effort to reduce its methane emissions by 15 percent worldwide by 2020.

It also withdrew last year from the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, which has pushed a conservative agenda within state governments for more than 45 years, including fighting many environmental regulations. Chevron opted to remain a member of ALEC.

Exxon, Chevron and others last year said they formed a new methane emissions consortium focused on reducing the release of greenhouse gas, called the Collaboratory to Advance Methane Science, nicknamed CAMS.

And Exxon Mobil said earlier this month it would invest about $100 million over 10 years in emissions-reduction technologies at some of the nation's top energy research labs.

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