There are changes ahead at ExxonMobil. On Monday, the oil giant announced major shakeups in how it will do business moving forward—and continued its attempts to convince the public that it’s working towards a brighter climate future. The company is relocating offices, restructuring, and touting a new flashy but dubious “low carbon” division.
Exxon’s moving its offices from its storied headquarters located in Irving, Texas since the 1990s. The company’s leaders will no longer be concentrated on the campus dubbed the “God Pod,” so named within the company for the top-down culture of executive involvement and micromanaging. (Some of the decisions made by “God Pod” executives include deceiving the public on the actual cost of greenhouse gas emissions.) Exxon’s leadership will move to a sequestered office in a suburb of Houston, while the rest of the employees will relocate elsewhere in the city. Exxon has had a pretty abysmal past couple of years, as growing debt during the pandemic forced it to change financial course. Saving a little money on rent makes sense.
In tandem, the company said Monday it would be reorganizing into three separate streams—an upstream division for its oil and gas production; a “Product Solutions” branch for plastics and other types of fuel; and, incredibly, “ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions,” which, according to the company, has a goal to invest $3 billion in “lower-emission energy solutions” over the next four years.
The company’s low-carbon division was formed just last year, so this promotion to a full separate branch is a pretty big step forward—and comes just a couple weeks after Exxon finally trotted out a plan to get to net zero by 2050. Exxon took a pretty tough and sustained public beating last year when it came to climate, with shareholders voting to overthrow the company’s board in May and a damning sting exposing how Exxon manipulated politicians in June. It’s not a reach to say this reorganization is definitely an attempt from the company to send a message that it really cares about climate. (Houston, where much of the company is relocating, is not just a global oil and gas hub, but is also the site of the company’s much-touted proposed carbon capture project: a $100 billion plan to create an enormous carbon capture and storage facility for the huge cluster of oil and gas refineries there.)
Never mind that a lot of the technologies that form the backbone of this new division are seriously questionable and, in some cases, may actually increase emissions. Never mind that the company’s net zero plan may not do anything beyond make them more efficient at drilling for oil and gas. Never mind that “low carbon” is a largely bullshit term that doesn’t really mean anything. Never mind that some of these “lower-emission energy solutions” will be created to support operations at the company’s other two divisions—namely, developing slightly less polluting technologies that could keep oil flowing and energy pouring into new plastic production. Never mind that the House Oversight Committee has once again called ExxonMobil brass as well as the heads of other oil majors back into Congress next week to testify again as part of its investigation into Big Oil’s climate misinformation, after Exxon evaded questions and raked in praise from Republicans last October.
And never mind that the recent spike in oil prices gave the struggling company a profitable fourth quarter last year, making shares rise for the first time since April 2019—and showing where the company’s real financial powerhouse will continue to lie. For all the lip service Exxon might start paying to “low-carbon technologies,” it’s important to remember: it’s still an oil company, through and through.