Renewable energy plans by Exxon Mobil could diminish the coal industry

Published: 06 Mar 2018 By Matt Cook

Last year, reports highlighted how ExxonMobil had invested significantly into a series of renewable energy projects. Recently, the oil major has increased its focus with a further $20 million investment into a new energy initiative directed by the Institute for Energy at Stanford University.

Exxon Mobil Site

Figure: Exxon Mobil site in Chicago, USA

The newly created Strategic Energy Alliance is rather broad and fossil fuel developments are still within the mix of options. ExxonMobil explains that the SEA will identify ways and means to improve energy and access and reduce the overall impact on the environment. Exxon is investing $20 million over a period of five years into the SEA which in terms of business revenue is minuscule. Sources, however, suggest the oil major is also providing significant infrastructure for research and development programs. The SEA is a follow-up program after the development of the Global Climate and Energy Project developed in partnership with Stanford University.

Until recently, ExxonMobil seemed to be placing a lot of emphasis on oil and gas being the major source of energy to replace coal for developing nations. The new SEA project suggests, however, that Exxon is now including renewables within the energy mix. With renewables gaining further ground and becoming more competitive with the likes of natural gas means businesses such as Exxon are looking to diversify.

The Bank of America is a partner in the SEA and they are supportive of the Paris Agreement on climate change. The bank also made a commitment to carbon neutrality and 100% renewable energy for all operations in 2016.  Whilst they are still involved in coal and other fossil fuel industries, there is mounting pressure from stakeholders to move away from these industries. The responsible investment fund recently requested a detailed discussion of the future of its fossil fuel program. With partners ExxonMobil looking to move away from coal, these discussions could transform the focus of the Bank of America and its involvement in the SEA.

The US coal industry continues to struggle despite President Trump’s concerted efforts to revive and support coal miners and their communities. The rising development of renewables, supported by the diversification of oil businesses is causing further decline of the coal industry.

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