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ExxonMobil posts first annual loss in 40 years, losing $22.44 billion

With energy prices decimated, shale gas properties reduced by more than $20 billion in value during the fourth quarter, a far cry from fourth-quarter 2019 when they last posted a profit, totalling $5.69 billion.

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By Alex Dhaliwal

Top U.S. oil producer ExxonMobil has posted its first annual loss in 40 years, owing mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic, activist investors, and climate-change campaigns.

With energy prices decimated, shale gas properties reduced by more than $20 billion in value during the fourth quarter, a far cry from fourth-quarter 2019 when they last posted a profit, totalling $5.69 billion.

The company reported a net annual loss of $22.44 billion for 2020, compared to a full-year profit of $14.34 billion in 2019, with four consecutive quarters of losses in 2020.

In response to the devastating quarter, ExxonMobil laid off 15 per cent of its workforce and distributed $326 million in after-tax severance charges.

According to the Company’s fourth-quarter report, capital and exploration expenditures were $4.8 billion, bringing full-year spending to $21.4 billion, $9.8 billion lower than the prior year.

Though oil prices are likely to remain below $60 a barrel for years, despite a mounting $22-billion debt incurred last year to cover dividend and project spending, ExxonMobil assured investors of its financial health in a world of $50-a-barrel oil. 

Should prices fall below $45 per barrel, the company committed to “further reduce capital investments, cover the dividend and maintain a strong balance sheet.”

Despite the devastating year for ExxonMobil, “full-year 2020 capital spending of $21.4 billion was nearly $12 billion, or 35 per cent, lower than the initial $33 billion plan, and $2 billion below the revised $23 billion plan,” said ExxonMobil in its fourth-quarter report.

Though cash operating expenses for the year were 15 per cent lower than 2019, capturing savings from increased efficiencies, reduced activity, and lower energy costs, further reductions in operating expenses are expected. 

Dhaliwal is an Edmonton-based freelance reporter.

Energy

U.S. environmental groups poured $2.4 billion in 2019 to further climate change ideology

Ludwig warned had the finances from these groups also been included, the final numbers might be double or even three times current figures.

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New research from the Capital Research Center, an American-based think tank, reveals environmental groups poured a record $2.4 billion in 2019 to further left-wing climate change ideology.

“This stunning figure contrasts with the environmentalist movement’s self-image as David vs. Goliath: impoverished, idealistic eco-activists outgunned by powerful interests in the “fossil fuel” industry,” said its Senior Investigative Researcher, Hayden Ludwig.

He said Liberals have long claimed the Right outguns environmentalists despite holding the country’s best-funded special interests.

However, a 2018 misleading study measuring the income of broadly right-leaning groups focused on a host of issues, including welfare, telecom regulation, agricultural policy, etc., to produce the claim conservatives spend $1 billion per year to stop action on climate change, amounting to a 10 to 1 disparity with environmental groups.

CRC examined the finances of 166 left-leaning policy, activist, litigation, and research organizations along with any associated political action committees (PACs) that primarily focus on climate change or environmental regulation. 

The think-tank captured their revenues, expenditures, and the amounts of grants they paid out in 2019 using publicly available Form 990 findings.

Their inquiry found these organizations raked in $2.67 billion from donors, nearly all of whom remain undisclosed. These organizations, including special interests, spent a whopping $2.43 billion paying staffers, attorneys, activists, professional fundraisers, and researchers and lobbying for environmental regulations. 

“In the case of 501(c)(4) groups and PACs, they also helped elect Democrats and oppose Republicans in the 2019-2020 election cycle,” said Ludwig, as mostly left-leaning nonprofits received $435 million in grants.

“These figures don’t include lobbying by private firms for renewables subsidies, left-wing groups with a broader focus than climate change or the environment or eco-Right groups, self-identified “conservative” organizations that support carbon taxes and other global warming policies.” 

He warned had the finances from these groups also been included, the final numbers might be double or even three times current figures.

“The tax status of these organizations sheds light on the distribution of funds within the environmental movement,” said Ludwig. 

With 111 of 166 groups IRS-designated 501(c)(3) public charities, donations provided to them are tax-deductible. The 501(c)(3) nonprofits account for the overwhelming majority of finances CRC traced.

CRC traced 83.95 per cent or $2.24 billion of the $2.7 billion in total revenues uncovered, 83.1% of $2.02 billion of the $2.4 billion in total expenditures found, and 78.5% or $342 million of the $435 million in grants paid.

Of the 166 groups, 46 are 501(c)(4) advocacy nonprofits, which are permitted to spend significantly more on lobbying than their 501(c)(3) counterparts. 

The top 20 biggest spenders also number among the loudest voices pushing environmental regulations:

  1. World Wildlife Fund: $236 million
  2. Environmental Defense Fund: $188.6 million
  3. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC): $173 million
  4. Sierra Club: $150 million
  5. World Resources Institute: $120.8 million
  6. National Audubon Society: $118 million
  7. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): $109.9 million
  8. Sierra Club Foundation: $93.9 million
  9. National Wildlife Federation: $89.7 million
  10. EarthJustice: $78 million
  11. League of Conservation Voters: $66.5 million
  12. NextGen Climate Action Committee: $56.8 million
  13. NextGen Climate Action: $54 million
  14. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA): $53.5 million
  15. Rocky Mountain Institute: $45 million
  16. Resources Legacy Fund: $42.3 million
  17. Union of Concerned Scientists: $40.7 million
  18. Greenpeace: $37.7 million
  19. Oceana: $36 million
  20. League of Conservation Voters Education Fund: $34.8 million

“These are the titans of “Green” Activism Inc. They spend hundreds of millions of dollars to pass the socialist Green New Deal and promote radical global warming legislation that promises to jack up household electricity prices and enable the Left’s war on science,” said Ludwig.

Dhaliwal is the Western Standard’s reporter based in Edmonton.

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Energy

OUELLETTE: To save Canada’s energy industry, we need to end dependence on the US market

“The construction of new Canadian pipelines would maximize the volume of fuels transported by the safest, greenest means, and allow us to seize a golden opportunity to diversify the markets for our oil.”

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Guest column from Miguel Ouellette, Economist and Director of Operations at the Montreal Economic Institute www.iedm.org

Oil: Let’s put an end to our dependence on the United States

By Miguel Ouellette, Economist and Director of Operations at the Montreal Economic Institute www.iedm.org

Imagine for a moment that you are the head of a popcorn company. You know that the demand for popcorn is strong, and that contrary to what anti-fast food lobby groups say, demand will continue to increase in the coming years. But you have a problem: 98 per cent of your popcorn is purchased by one single cinema, because you didn’t diversify your client base. This cinema, however, has just named a new CEO who, to please some nutritionist friends, wants to keep your popcorn out. What do you do? Would it maybe be a good idea to try to sell your popcorn in other cinemas in order to save your company, and all its associated jobs?

Canadian oil is in a similar situation. His very first day in office, new US President Joe Biden revoked Keystone XL’s permit, and this project will likely not be his last victim. As in our hypothetical example, 98 per cent of Canada’s oil exports go to our southern neighbour. What should Canada and its industry do, then, to sell its product? The answer: Build new pipelines in order to reduce the risk associated with this one-client strategy and maximize oil export revenues.

According to the latest estimates, global oil demand will grow by 9 per cent by 2045, and by more than 40 per cent in a number of Asian countries. New pipelines would allow Canada to transport its oil to a larger number of refineries and terminals that could then export it to these new markets.

We therefore need more pipeline infrastructure to diversify our exports, and the Canadian government should do everything in its power to allow these projects to be completed. Putting all of our eggs in the same basket is a risky strategy. The Keystone XL cancellation alone represents over $50 million a day in potential exports for Canada that have fallen through.

Over the past five years, the federal government collected an average of $14 billion a year from the oil and gas industry. This tax revenue totals more than half of the sum of all provincial deficits during the pandemic. And the energy sector directly or indirectly employs over 830,000 workers, and accounts for around 10 per cent of our GDP. It’s therefore not just “Big Oil” that would benefit from such a strategy, but all Canadians.

Finally, it bears repeating: Pipelines are the safest and “greenest” method of transporting oil. New pipeline projects compromise neither our safety nor the protection of our natural environment. On average, over 99.99 per cent of the oil transported by federally regulated pipeline arrives without incident every year. Not to mention that transporting fuel by pipeline emits from 61 per cent to 77 per cent fewer GHGs than transport by rail.

In short, the construction of new Canadian pipelines would maximize the volume of fuels transported by the safest, greenest means, and allow us to seize a golden opportunity to diversify the markets for our oil.

So I ask you again: If you were the boss, what would you do?

Guest column from Miguel Ouellette, Economist and Director of Operations at the Montreal Economic Institute www.iedm.org

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Energy

As WTI crude rises, pipeline bottleneck remains in full effect

Alberta’s oil producers remain starved for pipelines, with investors continuing to flee the province.

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Western Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude continues to rise following a year of severe depreciation of Canada’s crude oil supply.

On April 20, 2020, WTI Crude reached historic lows and dropped by almost 300 per cent, trading at negative $37 per barrel.

The economic shock of COVID-19 worsened conditions for the energy sector when a price war erupted between oil giants Saudi Arabia and Russia in early March after OPEC’s failures to agree on deeper supply cuts.

Experts found oil demand bottomed out 30 per cent in April – conditions the market has not seen over the last 40 years since world oil markets developed.

As supply remained steady while demand struck record-breaking lows, the industry quickly began running out of storage space to put their oil.

However, oil prices steadily recovered in May to $35 per barrel – jumping 88.38 per cent to register the best month on record for WTI, despite the petroleum industry still reeling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

A once shining epicentre for the industry, Alberta’s oil producers remain starved for pipelines, with investors continuing to flee the province.

In December 2020, two rival oil and gas companies in Husky and Cenovus merged in a $3.8-billion all-share takeover bid. The companies combined 8,600 person workforce downsized in early-2021, cutting nearly 2,000 employees.

On President-elect Joe Biden’s first day in office, he signed an Executive Order to revoke Trump’s Keystone XL permits, costing Albertan taxpayers at least $1.2 billion after Premier Jason Kenney’s investment boondoggle.

Kenney called the revocation a gut punch and an insult and threatened to sue, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed some disappointment.

And now, Enbridge Line 5 – the major infrastructure connecting western Canadian crude to Eastern Canadian markets – is at risk of being shutdown by Michigan’s Governor citing environmental concerns.

Not to mention Royal Dutch Shell reducing its presence in Alberta with a $900 million sale of assets to Calgary-based company Crescent Point Energy Corporation. This comes after it publicly stated it passed peak oil production last week, and sought carbon offsets as a new venture.

However, it was not all bad news for the ailing sector.

In January, the Alberta Energy Regulator reported record-high oil sands production in December 2020, hinting neither demand nor supply was the issue longterm. It remains the transportation bottleneck.

Oil-by-rail exports surged by 87 percent in November 2020 – the same month, Alberta’s oil production hit an all-time high.

Transporting crude oil by rail is costlier to industry and riskier on conservation efforts than pipelines.

Despite WTI Crude rising significantly to $61 per barrel, there are no pipeline projects underway, and it’s unlikely that there will be new ones anytime soon.

Dhaliwal is the Western Standard’s Edmonton reporter.

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