What does the fossil fuel industry make of the
argument that it won't be allowed to burn its main product?
In 2011, campaign group Carbon Tracker warned that
large portions of fossil fuel companies' assets are "unburnable" if
the world intends to limit global warming to no more than two
If energy companies can't burn their reserves, they're
overvalued, the group argues, in an analysis aimed squarely at the
world's financial markets.
In the intervening years, the argument has gained some traction,
including in key financial industry publications like the
Financial Times and
The Economist. But what do the fossil fuel companies
While we weren't particularly optimistic that they'd want to
talk about it, we asked oil, gas and coal companies for their take
on the carbon bubble research. Many didn't respond. But some of the
bigger companies did, acknowledging that while strong climate
action could affect their activities, none of them considered it a
threat to their business this century.
76 oil, gas and coal companies, drawn from the main trade
groups. Seven companies provided substantial responses. 58
companies didn't respond. We got no response from the coal
Of the substantial responses, six came from major oil companies
on the Fortune 500
list of the world's largest businesses, and followed a
BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Statoil, and MOL all
acknowledged climate change was real, and that climate policy posed
a risk to their businesses - to an extent. They agreed that
regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions should become more
stringent over time, and probably will.
But none of the companies we asked saw climate action as a
threat to their business in the coming decades - or if they did,
they weren't prepared to share that assessment with us.