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A Week of Big Blows for Big Oil

Two victories by environmental activists added to the uncertainty surrounding the industry and Canada’s oil sands.

For environmentalists, it was a week of victories. For the oil and gas companies they vanquished, as well as Alberta and the other parts of Canada that rely on the energy industry, the week brought new uncertainties.

In a surprise upset, a tiny hedge fund, backed by a coalition of investors concerned about the environment, successfully persuaded other Exxon Mobil shareholders to elect two directors it hopes will move the company away from its traditional business toward clean energy sources.

My colleagues Peter Eavis and Cliff Krauss (a former Toronto correspondent for The New York Times) wrote that the vote was “the culmination of years of efforts by activists to force the oil giant to change its environmental policies and approach.”

Giant is no exaggeration when it comes to Exxon Mobil, which had $265 billion in revenues in 2019. It operates around the globe. Here in Canada, it controls Imperial Oil, the owner of the Esso brand, which has stakes in three oil sands operations and owns refineries, pipelines and chemical plants.

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