ExxonMobil’s Climate Pitch: A $100 Billion Carbon-Capture Project

May 8, 2021

ExxonMobil says it can help turn President Joe Biden’s climate agenda into reality – if Washington will kick in tax breaks and other assistance for a $100 billion carbon-capture project near Houston, according to an April 19, 2021 report from Politico.

By 2030, the project’s initial phase would capture 50 million tons of carbon dioxide every year from the refineries and petrochemical plants that line the Houston Ship Channel — the heart of the city’s oil and gas industry — and store it underground, Chief Executive Darren Woods told POLITICO on Monday, April 19. That’s the equivalent of taking nearly 11 million cars off the road.

Woods said the massive project offers the only realistic way for the U.S. to get anywhere near the kinds of quick, aggressive cuts to the nation’s greenhouse gas output that Biden is expected to call for this week to avert disastrous changes to the Earth’s climate. Exxon is not asking for direct federal subsidies but is urging the administration to help kick-start the effort, either through tax breaks to create incentives for the technology or by establishing a price on carbon that will help create a market for the company’s new business of capturing the emissions.

“There aren’t any bigger opportunities to make this kind of reduction in the time frame we’re talking about,” Woods said in an interview. “Society doesn’t have a lot of needle-moving opportunities to reduce CO2 significantly in the time frame.”

But the Biden administration is not considering Exxon’s idea as it prepares to roll out its own climate plans, according to people familiar with White House thinking. Meanwhile, environmental groups and many Democrats have slammed carbon capture proposals as a climate strategy, saying the only way to permanently reduce greenhouse gas pollution is a wholesale switch away from fossil fuels.

The White House is expected to release a new national target calling for cutting U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by about half of 2005 levels by 2030. The U.S. is required to issue its own climate goal — which Biden will reveal as he prepares to host world leaders as part of his two-day virtual climate summit starting on Thursday — as part of its return to the Paris Climate Agreement, the international pact that Exxon has said it supports.

Woods said the project would not just remove millions of tons of planet-warming gases from the atmosphere, it would also help establish a technology that the company expects to play a critical role in U.S. climate strategy.

Exxon and other oil producers are embracing carbon capture as a technology that will enable their oil and gas businesses to continue to operate in a carbon-constrained environment. But that’s gotten a strong pushback from green groups, many of which have singled out Exxon for blame for what they call the oil and gas industry’s decades of efforts to obscure the reality of human-created climate change.

What this means to you

ExxonMobil’s proposed $100 billion carbon-capture project near Houston could capture 50 million ton of carbon dioxide every year. However, environmental groups and many Democrats have slammed the carbon capture proposal as a climate strategy.

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