State-run oil giants will make or break the energy transition (The Economist – July 25, 2022)

They are intent on pumping more oil for years to come—but even they cannot completely ignore climate change

Climate activists love to vilify ExxonMobil and Shell. Private-sector energy giants like them are on the receiving end of proxy battles, legal challenges and other forms of pressure to dump oil and gas in favour of renewables and other green technologies.

The supermajors make for an attractive target: they have ubiquitous distribution networks and well-known brands susceptible to consumer boycotts. Such pressure is often welcome—in the fight against global warming every little counts.

But in the oil market the private sector counts for less than you might think. Whether the energy transition can succeed will depend in large part on the behaviour of the world’s state-led oil behemoths.

If the supermajors are big oil then national oil companies (nocs in industry lingo) are enormous oil (see chart 1). Together they produce three-fifths of the world’s crude (see chart 2) and half its natural gas, compared with just over a tenth for large international oil firms (the rest is pumped by smaller independent companies).

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