Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!
Expand chart
Data: BloombergNEF; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

How much research and development big oil companies are putting into cleantech is one of the few concrete metrics to gauge the industry’s varying shifts toward cleaner energy.

Between the lines: Pinning that figure down is tricky because many companies don’t disclose and even those that do use definitions that vary widely for what constitutes cleaner energy or low-carbon.

The big picture: Just 2 out of 8 of the world’s biggest publicly traded oil companies (ExxonMobil and Total) are spending more on overall research and development today than nearly a decade ago, according to BloombergNEF analysis of companies’ recent financial reports, as the accompanying chart shows.

  • The R&D spending of all 8 companies analyzed (the 5 companies shown plus Equinor, Repsol and Eni) dropped in 2015, likely due to the drop in global oil prices that squeezed the entire industry.
  • Exxon consistently spends the most on R&D, surpassing an annual $1 billion spend most years.

One level deeper: The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, an industry-led coalition of 13 of the world’s biggest oil companies, says in a new report that R&D spending on lower carbon energy rose by 38% in 2018, reaching $1 billion, though that figure represents only 9 companies that disclosed (OGCI doesn’t disclose which companies disclosed).

  • As for what constitutes low carbon, OGCI writes that “low carbon energy technologies include but are not limited to: energy efficiency, wind, solar and other renewables [carbon capture], hydrogen, biofuels, energy storage and sustainable mobility.”
  • The caveat “but are not limited to” leaves room for companies to consider an array of other tech and sources as lower carbon. It does appear that natural gas, the cleanest fossil fuel that is nonetheless facing increasing opposition from environmentalists and Democratic politicians, is excluded from this definition.

The intrigue: I just spoke with Bill Farris, an associate laboratory director at the U.S. Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory for my recent column on Exxon’s expanding external research funding, including with NREL. He said NREL works with other oil companies too, albeit with distinct focuses, illustrating the different strategies big oil companies are pursuing when it comes to clean tech.

“Whether it’s biofuels for Exxon or smart grids for Shell or offshore wind for Equinor, we try to make the R&D capabilities available.”
— Bill Farris, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

What I’m watching: David Doherty, an oil analyst at BloombergNEF, says he expects R&D toward low-carbon to increase alongside what he has seen to be an increase in external investments so far this year.

Go deeper

State Department to set up new cyber bureau to combat hack attacks

Secretary of State Tony Blinken speaks on the challenges during an October conference in Quito, Ecuador. Photo:y Felipe Stanley/Agencia Press South/Getty Images

Secretary of State Tony Blinken announced Monday plans for the State Department to create a new bureau of cyberspace and digital policy.

Why it matters: The establishment of the bureau and plans for a new envoy to oversee critical and emerging technology come after a series significant hack attacks and other online crimes, notably ransomware assaults on U.S. infrastructure.

Biden rejects Trump's latest executive privilege claims

Photo: Jim Watson and Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The White House on Monday rejected two more of former President Trump's claims of executive privilege over documents that the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot requested, CNN first reported.

Why it matters: Trump's legal team is seeking to block some of the panel's requests for records by invoking executive privilege, which can allow presidents and their aides to sidestep congressional scrutiny. The Biden administration has maintained that it will evaluate on a case-by-case basis.

Amazon warehouse workers in New York file petition to hold unionization vote

Amazon workers and their supporters rally outside the National Labor Relations Board's regional office in Brooklyn, New York City, after filing a petition requesting an election to form a union. Photo: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Amazon warehouse workers in New York City filed a petition on Monday with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold a vote on unionization.

Why it matters: The move comes six months after an organizing effort was defeated at Amazon's distribution center in Alabama.