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Oil and gas executives are holding out for a hero

Alan Neuhauser
Jun 17, 2022
Data: PitchBook; Chart: Alan Neuhauser/Axios
Data: PitchBook; Chart: Alan Neuhauser/Axios

The vast majority of energy and natural resources execs say that slashing their companies’ emissions is a top priority — yet only a third believe they’ll move faster than their peers in achieving those reductions. Call it the corner office disconnect.

Why it matters: Oil, gas, and mining CEOs are notoriously conservative in strategy; making bold claims at conferences while quietly hoping others will make ambitious moves. That's the worst possible outcome for consumers.

Driving the news: Bain & Co. surveyed more than 1,000 of its client executives in the energy and natural resources sectors, publishing the results this week.

By the numbers: 88% of respondents said that reducing Scope 1 and 2 emissions is a "key priority." Yet only 37% said that they'll keep up with their competition.

  • In oil and gas, half of those surveyed expect to see their core business decline within a decade.
  • North American oil and gas execs are nearly twice as likely as European peers to stall investment in new business areas, blaming policy and regulatory uncertainty.
  • As the chart above shows, oil and gas has the resources to spend.

💭 Our thought bubble: Oil and gas execs are walking where they should be running, as just 10% expect to replace core business lines by 2030. That's led to some strange impacts.

  • Take fuel prices: Oil and gas companies have held off on building expensive new refineries, in part due to an expected surge in EV adoption.
  • Yet they've not replaced that investment with a similar level of buy-in on the energy transition. As a result, motorists get pinched with painfully high prices and few affordable alternatives.

Bottom line: That's, of course, a simplification; markets are complicated. But the survey accurately reflects how oil and gas execs have adopted a bunker mentality: protect against current risks, avoid taking new ones — and wait for someone else to swoop in to save the day and their balance sheets.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to note that a third of energy and natural resources expect their companies to move faster than their peers, rather than keep pace with peers.

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