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An Exxon gas station in Woodbridge, Virginia. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

ExxonMobil Corp., the world’s largest publicly traded oil producer, is setting a target of cutting its methane emissions 15% within two years, the company said Wednesday.

Why it matters: It’s the latest sign in how big oil and gas companies are cleaning up their operations under pressure from investors, lawsuits and the public on climate change.

“What we’re announcing is our very, very tangible reductions that we can deliver and they’re ambitious, significant and they’re going to make a significant impact on emission reductions.”
— Sara Ortwein, president of XTO Energy, Exxon’s wholly owned subsidiary producing oil and natural in the U.S.

Gritty details:

  • Exxon has made other recent pronouncements on methane, a potent greenhouse gas that’s the primary component of natural gas. But this week’s news is more specific and tangible compared to the previous ones.
  • Wednesday’s announcement also includes a 25% reduction in flaring, a process by which companies burn excess gas off as carbon dioxide.
  • Exxon’s 15% reduction is less than half of what the Obama administration was proposing to do by 2025. The Trump administration rolled back that effort.

Yes, but: It’s hard to compare Exxon’s goal with that of other big oil and gas companies, such as Shell and BP, because each of them has used different metrics to define their target, and the data isn’t available to create an apples to apples comparison, said Matt Watson, an expert on this topic at the Environmental Defense Fund who works with companies. “Moving forward these companies need to release their emissions data and accounting methodologies so reductions can be independently verified. Transparency is critical to earning public trust,” Watson said.

What’s next: Ortwein said beyond cutting methane emissions, the company is also working to make their other products, such as petroleum-derived plastics, cleaner: “We’re looking even broader than our own operations.”

Go deeper

28 mins ago - World

Brazil senators vote to recommend criminal charges for Bolsonaro

Brazilian senators vote on probe into President Bolsonaro's handling of pandemic. Photo: Gustavo Minas/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Brazilian Senate committee Tuesday voted to approve a report recommending President Jair Bolsonaro be charged with a raft of criminal indictments, including crimes against humanity over his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, per AP.

Why it matters: Bolsonaro has become the face of a right-wing approach to the pandemic that includes repudiating vaccines and masks and resisting lockdowns and other mitigation measures. The Senate report holds him personally responsible for half of the country's 600,000 deaths.

Former Georgetown tennis coach pleads guilty to accepting admissions bribes

Gordon Ernst (left) former head tennis coach at Georgetown, outside a courthouse in Boston in 2019. Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A former Georgetown University head tennis coach has pleaded guilty Tuesday to bribery charges related to facilitating the admission of prospective applicants.

Why it matters: Gordon Ernst solicited and accepted bribes from William Singer, ringleader of the cheating scheme uncovered by Operation Varsity Blues, and families in exchange for helping prospective applicants get into Georgetown as student athletes, according to the Justice Department.

4 hours ago - Health

CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot

Photo: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated guidelines Tuesday that some immunocompromised people who have received either Pfizer or Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines will be able to get a fourth shot.

Details: People over 18 who are "moderately to severely immunocompromised" and have received three doses of an mRNA vaccine may get a fourth shot (of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines) at least six months after getting their third Pfizer or Moderna dose, per the CDC.