Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has, in two long weeks, brought untold suffering and instability. Yet, where most reasonable observers see an escalating tragedy, Big Oil CEOs see an opportunity.
That’s according to a new analysis conducted by nonprofits BailoutWatch and Friends of the Earth, which claims at least five oil executives have cashed out nearly $99 million worth of stock since late February. Specifically, the organizations claim Hess Corporation’s CEO sold 650,000 shares worth a total of $65 million between March 4 and March 8. Pioneer Natural Resources Director reportedly sold $10.6 million worth of shares between February 24 and March 3. Three other executives—Pioneer CEO Scott Sheffield, Marathon Oil CEO Lee Tillman, and Continental Resources President Jack Stark—combined sold around $23.3 million worth of shares.
“The CEOs of these companies have been caught cashing in on war,” Lukas Ross, program manager at Friends of the Earth, said in a statement. “If we want to protect consumers from pain at the pump, or preserve a livable climate, it is clear the age of fossil fuels must end.” The report, released Thursday, comes just two days after the U.S. announced it would ban Russian oil imports.
At the same time, the report finds 18 of the world’s top oil CEOs have increased their collective net worth by $8 billion since Joe Biden took office. Contrary to some predictions, Biden’s climate agenda isn’t exactly forcing executives to scrap together second jobs anytime soon. The same can’t be said for workers. A separate analysis conducted by BailoutWatch claimed workers at Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Phillips 66 all endured layoffs in 2020, while the CEOs for those same companies gave themselves raises.
Though oil industry supporters regularly attack Biden’s energy policies, the president’s climate report card is, in reality, a mixed bag. Despite cheerleading meaningful commitments to phase out fossil fuels, Biden simultaneously reopened a federal program to sell oil and gases leases on federal land and eventually oversaw one of the largest lease sales in the nation’s history. Adding to that, an analysis conducted late last year by advocacy group Public Citizen determined the Biden administration had approved more fossil fuel leases on public lands than Trump had in any year of his presidency other than 2020.
While Biden’s climate policies certainly represent a step back from Trump’s “drill baby drill” edict, they’re still a far cry from an oil-crushing boogeyman. Even in the face of emerging pro-climate policies, the new analysis demonstrates how oil executives can still find paths to turn a profit when pressed.
“The actions of these oil executives make it clear that no matter how much they groan about the Biden Administration’s environmental policies and blame Putin for high prices, their focus remains entirely on lining their own pockets,” BailOutWatch data analyst Christopher Kuveke said in a statement. “There’s no use looking for other answers in the industry’s school of red herrings.”