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October 2020 | Oil Companies & Climate Deception

75 ways to take action against Big Oil

In this post, we read, listen, act, and reflect on October's topic: Big Oil. This blog has been adapted from our sustainability newsletter, so please sign up for it to stay in the loop.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

What’s covered:

  • READ: Exxon's plan to increase emissions to match the country of Greece's CO2 output
  • LISTEN: The climate conspiracy funded by Big Oil
  • ACT: 3 ways to fight Big Oil
  • REFLECT: 72 places in your life you can replace Big Oil, plus reader mail

Fight climate change in a way that works for you.

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Headshot of Ash Borkar (a woman with glasses and a cardigan)
"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar, Change.org
Headshot of Meghan Mehta speaking at Google with a microphone in her hand
"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter." - Meghan Mehta, Google

This week's conversation starter

This prompt is for you to ask your friends and family - especially if they're thinking about climate change less than you are. I'll share one every week.

What do you think about renewable energy? Have you considered using it?

READ: Facts about Exxon and Big Oil

The following is taken from this Bloomberg report and this Motley Fool article (I recommend reading the Bloomberg one). Both articles reference a leaked Exxon internal document.

Exxon put out a press release claiming that the Bloomberg report is misleading, but I think I'll take my chances and stand by this report. You can read Exxon's statement here.

  • Exxon has an ambitious plan... to increase fossil fuel production. Their own assessment of their $210 billion investment strategy shows yearly CO2 emissions rising 17% by 2025. Yes, rising.
  • Exxon wants to compete with Greece, I guess? This "ambitious" plan would increase their annual emissions by as much as the output of the ENTIRE NATION of Greece. That's a whole country!
  • The number is an underestimate. Basically, Exxon wants to ramp up oil production. This would increase CO2 emissions by 21 million metric tons by 2025. This doesn't account for what they already emit. (Emission, more like omission, amirite?) Exxon's leaked documents estimate total emissions of 143 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2025.
  • They're trying to sneak past you. They talk big game about their emissions reduction strategy, but that's to distract you from the fact that they emit WAY more than they reduce — the reduction is likely just a publicity play at this time.

There's good news, though. Plus, more info on the history of this colossal problem. Sources are linked if you want to learn more.

  • There's good news! Exxon's competitors, like Shell and BP, have committed to net-zero emissions targets by 2050 because of shareholder demands. Putting pressure on corporations works and it's one of the best ways we can take action as individuals. I'm here to show you how.
  • Only 20 companies have contributed to a third of all CO2 emissions. Yeah, here's the list.
  • We let this happen because of politics and capitalism. Fossil fuel companies get hella money from the government. In the US, fossil fuel subsidies are greater than federal education spending. I'll talk more about the link between politics, money, and Big Oil in a later module.

This week's conversation starter

This prompt is for you to ask your friends and family - especially if they're thinking about climate change less than you are. I'll share one every week.

Why do you think our weather patterns change from year to year? What's the wildest weather event you've experienced in your life?

LISTEN: How powerful is Big Oil?


Confession: I didn't know about climate deception until earlier this year. I mean, I knew that oil companies were kinda responsible for covering up climate change, but I didn't understand that it was a whole ass conspiracy theory.


The main video I wanted to share with you below has more facts, but I had to show you this 3-minute one for #ConspiracyVibes. Honestly, it almost seems fake with all the eerie background music. I wish it was.


So, option 1, watch the spooky video titled Big Oil Knew: The Confusion Memo. It's short and has a good timeline on how Exxon and its buddies created a decades-long cover up that's made its way to the American White House today.


Option 2: Watch this other NowThis video "How Powerful is Big Oil?" I've embedded it below, and if you keep scrolling, I've included 3 facts to encourage you to watch. It's only 3 min - you might as well exit out of this newsletter and check out the video, since it's basically the same amount of time.

Fact snack | Video Recap

  • Trillionaire, baby: Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United States (in that order) are the largest global oil producers. The top 5 oil companies' revenues accounted for over 10% of US GDP — about 2 trillion USD! Yes, five companies' revenues equated to a tenth of US GDP. If you're not from the US, that translates to "I'm so rich I can do whatever I want without consequences".
  • Swaying elections is easy... with enough money. Oil companies in 2016 gave ~57 MILLION bucks to the political campaign. As we know, the election of the US president has far-reaching global consequences. Oh, and over 50 of that million went to the Republican party.
  • Each year, approximately 4 BILLION in taxpayer dollars is given back to oil companies. So basically, oil companies are hella rich, they have seemingly unlimited political power, and the money that they give to politicians is barely a cost to them because they get it right back.


Today's Changeletter was a bit doom and gloom, but I just want to let it sink in that we can only substantially fight climate change when we act on a corporate level. And I see y'all out there with your corporate employers - but don't worry. We'll help you make a plan, starting with our voting party.

ACT: 3 baby steps to take down the bad guy, Big Oil

It seems like Big Oil was the right topic to pick this month. In our Listen module, we talked about how much unchecked power they have and a few days ago, the President of the United States "hypothetically" asked Exxon for a $25 million campaign donation. Exxon denied it, just like they denied wanting to increase CO2 emissions this year.

Today, I'm listing out 3 actions you can take towards the fight for a greener, less oil-dependent future.

It's time to end our reliance on Big Oil. It'll take a while to get there, but we can start in reeeaaaallly easy ways. I've done all three of these only after COVID started, so I believe in you to also take the first step. Please reach out if you need more resources -- we're here for you at team@soapboxproject.org or on social media.

Anyway, here it is, easy, medium, and medium-advanced:

  1. Divest from Big Oil. Do you have oil and gas stocks in your portfolio? Can you switch them out for renewable energy stocks and ETFs? Check out these recommendations and let me know what you think.

  2. Switch your bank. A majority of investment banks including Chase invest heavily in fossil fuels. I recently used Mighty Deposits to find a bank that works for me — instead of investing in dirty energy, my money is going towards building community and boosting small businesses.

  3. Use less plastic. You're probably slammed this week with emails/calls/texts from political campaigns. You already know the importance of voting, so I'll keep this last action simple. As we learned in Plastics 101, crude oil and natural gas are the main ingredients in plastic. Keep up your fight against Big Oil by reducing single-use plastic — our habits have the power to add up and cascade to the source.

That's it for now with our Act module. I have a lot more to say on Big Oil and $$$, but we'll chat more in our next module. See you soon!

Reflect: 72 places to get rid of Big Oil

Something amusing: the page that I'm about to send you to is from the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers. They're exalting the pervasiveness of oil in our everyday products and habits and showing us 72 ways it shows up in our routines.

That's 72 opportunities to think about replacing it!

Click on the infographic below to go straight to their interactive website. You can hover over each thing and it'll tell you exactly how oil/gas are used.

https://www.iogp.org/oil-natgas-in-everyday-life/

Here's what they say about clothing: "The most commonly manufactured fibers are petroleum based, such as nylon, polyester, acrylic, and spandex. Fabrics and materials created from petroleum keep us dry and warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather." 👀

Good thing Reprise, our sponsor, specializes in plastic-free activewear! Check them out here.

READER MAIL

To wrap up this month's Changeletter, we'll finish of with some reader mail. Contact us at team@soapboxproject.org if you have any questions to add!

  1. Love hearing the info about divesting from big oil recently! I also just read the attached article in my business strategy class and thought of you and soapbox - maybe would be a good topic for taking action to learn more about all these opportunities to make our financial portfolio more ESG oriented. - Jessica, MBA Candidate at Kellogg School of Management
  2. One topic I'd love to learn about related to big oil: tips on the best resources for understanding which politicians are receiving donations from big oil. [Also,] we actually wrote a blog post specifically about fossil fuel free banks and other eco-friendly options where we list about 30 banks and credit unions. - Sophia, Mighty Deposits co-founder

Thanks for your question, Sophia — here's a tracker on oil and gas donations (all recipeints). Spoiler alert: Trump takes the lead and Biden is in second place.

That's all for October. Make sure to share this article and sign up for our newsletter if you learned something new today.

Fight climate change in a way that works for you.

💌 Thinking about sustainability can be overwhelming after a busy workday, so we're here to help. Join over 4,000 other busy people and subscribe to Changeletter, a bite-sized action plan that'll take you 3 minutes or less to read every week.
Take action
Headshot of Ash Borkar (a woman with glasses and a cardigan)
"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar, Change.org
Headshot of Meghan Mehta speaking at Google with a microphone in her hand
"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter." - Meghan Mehta, Google