For the first century of their existence, oil companies were unopposed in their domination of the motor fuels market. Over the past 40 years, though, pressure has increased to transition the fuel supply away from fossil fuels to more environmentally friendly energy sources. How are the majors responding?
Shifting from Petroleum to ‘Energy’
Today, the major oil companies are trying to reposition themselves as environmentally conscious “energy providers.” The ExxonMobil Energy Challenge invites college students majoring in science, technology, engineering or mathematics to learn about the company’s green initiatives. The Shell Great Energy Challenge (in conjunction with National Geographic) engages energy stakeholders in solutions-based thinking about a shared energy future, and BP’s Energy Sustainability Challenge addresses the potential effects that natural-resource scarcity may have on energy supply and demand.
It cannot be said that the majors have not confronted emissions issues in the past — witness the more environmentally friendly unleaded gasoline and ultra-low-sulfur diesel formulations that have been created to replace their forebears. There are strong indications, however, that the majors are just fine with a gasoline/diesel-based motor-fuel pool, as they continue to voice opposition to high-ethanol blends and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
Outlook for the Future
Although the major oil companies have displayed tremendous staying power up until now, their challenges are beginning to mount. Amid low gas prices, an oversupply of oil, prospects for decreased fuel consumption and more stringent energy policies, oil companies may soon need to pursue a more diversified portfolio in order to position themselves for a long-term future. Source™ North America will continue to monitor the oil companies’ actions for meaningful signs of adaptation, and we will support retailers with the information they need to position their own operations for a competitive future.