Why Shaking Up Big Oil Could Be a Pyrrhic Victory

Why Shaking Up Big Oil Could Be a Pyrrhic Victory
(AP Photo/Bill Sikes)
Last week marked a watershed in the oil industry’s reckoning with climate change. The landmark setbacks in the courtroom, boardroom, and shareholder meetings for some of the world’s largest oil firms were stunning victories for climate activists in their battle against Big Oil. Whether these defeats will also be a victory in the battle against climate change, however, is less clear. That will depend on whether growing societal pressure to deal with the climate crisis leads to the policy changes and technological advances needed to rapidly curb oil use, as society must. In a global oil market where supplies are freely traded and the big Western oil firms control only a small share of output, reducing these companies’ production alone won’t be enough. Without simultaneously reducing the demand for oil, it could create heightened economic, political, and geopolitical risks while failing to have as big an impact on emissions as necessary.
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