Sep 28, 2021

Energy activists like to frame debates around zero sum paradigms, arguing for instance that every barrel of oil kept in the ground in California will inspire more renewable energy to be used by consumers. 

Unfortunately, that’s not how the energy economy works and, as we’ve pointed out, each barrel of oil kept in the ground in California requires a barrel of foreign oil to be shipped in from halfway around the world to continue powering the lives and basic needs of 40 million state residents.

Another false paradigm pushed by misinformed activist groups is the idea that oil companies only care about oil. Quite the contrary: energy has always been a sector in transition, and the same California companies that activists disparage are helping drive the move toward cleaner energy through new technologies and innovations.

When Chevron was founded in 1879, its main product was kerosene, a cheaper, more efficient, and longer-lasting fuel that replaced whale oil, which gave off a strong odor when burnt. In subsequent decades, Chevron helped develop the energy technologies necessary to fuel commercial air travel and build the globalized economy. Today, Chevron is investing in major clean energy projects like one that aims to supply Los Angeles with hydrogen power – something the Los Angeles Times said “will be a game-changer for the climate.”

Indeed, so-called “oil” companies actually helped launch many of the renewable energy technologies experiencing massive growth today. More than fifty years ago, Exxon (then known as Jersey Standard) funded groundbreaking research into solar photovoltaic technology, which turns sunlight into electricity. According to reporting from NPR, the research and investments were “critical” and “laid a foundation for what is now a growing, multibillion-dollar industry.”

California’s energy companies are also developing innovations to actually lower the volume of harmful emissions in the atmosphere. Through major investments in the development of carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies, companies like Chevron are working to scale solutions that will directly assist California in reaching its ambitious emissions targets.

While radical activists and politicians like to paint energy companies as opponents of all progress, a review of these companies’ basic histories and current business investments shows otherwise. California energy companies have the expertise and the drive to develop new, climate-focused energy solutions on the massive scale necessary to bring the state’s climate goals within reach.