Big Oil's pandemic pivot is toward renewables, but will it last?

Aerial shot top view of solar panels adjacent to a farm.
Aerial shot top view of solar panels adjacent to a farm.The coronavirus outbreak is costing Big Oil big billions, causing some oil companies to invest in renewable energy.
Dzmitry Palubiatka | Adobe Stock

The coronavirus outbreak is costing Big Oil big billions. The latest numbers: BP reduced its asset values by $17.5 billion; Royal Dutch Shell says its oil and gas assets are down $22 billion; and Total cut the value of its Canadian oil sands assets by $7 billion.

The companies are directing some investments toward renewable energy instead. But it’s unclear if that pivot is a temporary response to the pandemic’s economic fallout, or a more permanent move in response to climate change.

“There are some skeptics who think that the oil companies are using climate change as almost an excuse to cover their bad financial state, and that what’s really changed over the last six months is, of course, the coronavirus pandemic,” said Nicholas Kusnetz, who has been following oil companies’ latest earnings reports for InsideClimate News.

“But I think you see a lot of people, and even executives of some Big Oil companies like Shell and BP, saying that this huge crash in global oil demand that we’ve seen amid the pandemic is really going to accelerate the transition away from oil and will bring forward an eventual peak in global oil demand,” Kusnetz said.

He spoke with MPR chief meteorologist and Climate Cast host Paul Huttner. Hit play on the audio player above to hear their conversation.

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