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In ‘Brazen Wealth Transfer’, Exxon and Chevron Pay Out Record Sums to Shareholders

ExxonMobil and Chevron, major U.S. oil companies, have reported their second-highest profits in a decade for the year 2023. Despite a slight dip from the record profits of 2022, both companies celebrated their achievements, citing increased oil and gas production and substantial returns to shareholders.

Chevron’s CEO, Mike Wirth, proudly stated that 2023 saw the company delivering record cash to shareholders and achieving unprecedented levels of oil and gas production. Exxon, too, boasted processing a record volume of oil and gas through its refineries. While profits for both firms declined compared to the previous year, Exxon’s CEO, Darren Woods, pointed out that earnings had more than doubled since 2019.

In specific figures, Exxon reported profits of $36 billion, paying out $32.4 billion to shareholders, while Chevron reported $21.4 billion in profits and distributed $26.3 billion to shareholders. These payouts ranked Exxon and Chevron among the top U.S. companies for total shareholder distributions, trailing only Apple, Microsoft, and Google’s parent company, Alphabet.

Environmental groups criticized the companies for prioritizing shareholder rewards over investments in clean energy initiatives. Global Witness highlighted that the combined $59 billion in payouts equated to the energy bills of households in California and Texas for 2023, and could have significantly contributed to covering damages from severe weather disasters.

Both Exxon and Chevron have major mergers in the pipeline for 2024, and if approved, these mergers could lead to a more than 20% increase in their greenhouse gas emissions. This would surpass the emissions of entire countries like Australia, Brazil, and Spain combined.

Greenpeace USA drew attention to Chevron’s impact on Californian communities, emphasizing the company’s contribution to local pollution and climate-related disasters. Chevron’s significant holdings of orphaned oil wells in the state, particularly near low-income communities, raised concerns about emissions and health risks.

Critics argued that these oil giants need to address their environmental footprint, cease drilling, actively contribute to cleanup efforts, and invest in a transition toward a cleaner energy economy.

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