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!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

BP CEO Bernard Looney is leading the biggest transformation in the oil industry’s 160-year history, but he's staying quiet on the thorniest part: the politics.

Driving the news: In our recent interview for “Axios on HBO,” Looney made a scripted case for BP’s big plan to pivot to renewable energy and survive — and even thrive — while doing it.

Over the course of an hour, he redirected or waved off questions on the climate-change positions of President Trump and Joe Biden, BP's lobbying activities in Washington, and mistrust from the public and environmentalists over the oil industry’s willingness to address climate change.

“I get the sort of suspicion. But we are serious about this. This is in the interests of our company. It's not like we're trying to protect our existing business and get by. We are pivoting BP from being an international oil company that we've been for 111 years to becoming an integrated energy company.”
— Looney to "Axios on HBO"

The big picture: The company is facing strong headwinds: BP’s stock is tanking, investors are skeptical that the transformation can be profitable, and the pandemic is battering the entire industry’s finances. There’s little room for error.

How it works: BP unveiled in September what many experts consider the oil industry’s most aggressive plan to move away from oil and gas toward renewable energy.

By 2030:

  • Cutting its oil and gas production by 40%, which would set it apart from other producers.
  • Increasing the amount of annual spending on clean-energy technologies from $500 million to $5 billion.

By 2050:

  • Reaching “net-zero” emissions from both its operations and its own oil and gas production, which means its entire business will not emit emissions (or will offset them).
  • Cutting by 50% the emissions intensity (emissions per unit of output) from the products it sells. These emissions are at least double the emissions of BP’s operations and its own oil and gas.

The intrigue: For the CEO of an oil company that's trying to position itself as an industry leader on climate, he had little to say about either a president who encourages climate-change denial or a candidate who would pursue an aggressive climate plan that's roughly in line with BP's goal.

  • On Trump: “My response is what we're doing. … [Climate change is] a huge issue and we're in action. And, you know, I'm not going to comment on what other people's views are. People have a right to their views.”
  • On Biden: “I didn't study [Biden’s] plan in detail. … BP is supportive of any sound, sensible policy which accelerates the world on a path to net-zero. That's what we support.”

The backstory: Looney has given conflicting messages on how central government policy is to BP’s strategy.

  • “We need policymakers to incentivize lower carbon choices,” Looney told investors at a week-long meeting on the new plan in September. In our interview right after that, he said, “While policy is helpful to our strategy, our strategy is not predicated on policy.”
  • Close observers are blunter. “They fare much better in a world where climate policy is strong and universal than in a world that is more fragmented and weak,” said Andrew Logan, who interacts with oil and gas companies as a senior director at the sustainable investment nonprofit Ceres.

Where it stands: BP said it would end its long-running corporate reputation campaign — which cost the company $100 million last year — and redirect at least part of that money toward supporting climate policies around the world.

  • For this year and next, the company has budgeted $6.5 million for campaigns advocating for climate policies throughout the country and in Washington, D.C., according to Geoff Morrell, a BP executive vice president responsible for global advocacy and spending.
  • “We are spending millions and would gladly spend tens of millions more if there were viable net-zero policies to actively advocate for,” Morrell said.
  • BP is supporting the European Union’s big climate policy and the United Kingdom’s plan to ban internal combustion engine cars in 2035, Looney said in the interview.

Looney deflected a few questions about past actions by BP and the industry writ large, including the sector's mixed practice over decades of helping fund initiatives doubting climate science and opposing policies.

  • “I'm not sure it helps anybody to dwell in the past when we have an incredible challenge ahead of us,” Looney said.

What we’re watching: If Biden wins the White House, BP’s new lobbying posture will be put to an immediate test.

  • Earlier this year, BP said it was leaving three trade associations, but it’s staying in the most powerful ones: the American Petroleum Institute and U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Neither one has climate policies anywhere close to what BP is pushing.

The bottom line: “The success of their climate strategy depends on society moving forward quickly as well,” said Logan. “If they’re earnest about what they’re trying to do, that will show up in their lobbying. It can’t be an ancillary effort — it has to be a core part of the strategy.”

Go deeper

On Day One, Biden will move to rejoin Paris Climate Agreement

Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

President-elect Biden on Wednesday will begin the formal process for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, making good on a highly touted campaign promise.

Catch up fast: President Trump first announced his intention to abandon the accord in June 2017, angering countries worldwide. The U.S. became the only country to pull out of the pact on Nov. 4, 2020, the day after the election and the first possible day for the country to withdraw under the agreement's terms.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 20, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Voters favor Biden's climate policies, but few view issue as top priority

Data: Morning Consult; Chart: Axios Visuals

Several new polls help to show where the public's at on energy and climate as Biden takes office.

Why it matters: People tend to favor emissions-cutting and low-carbon energy initiatives, but it's hardly top of mind.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 20, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Biden's plan to upend Trump's environmental legacy

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden will on Wednesday order a government-wide review of over 100 Trump-era policies and direct agencies to prepare a suite of emissions and energy efficiency rules.

Why it matters: New information from transition officials offers the full scope of Biden's imminent, inauguration-day burst of environmental and energy policy moves.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!