Source: Devika Krishnak/Twitter
Source: Devika Krishnak/Twitter

ExxonMobil boss Darren Woods has said that he doesn’t get the point of electric vehicles, an astounding comment from CEO of one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies.

At the recent 2019 Oil and Gas Climate Initiative meet, the Exxon boss asked fellow attendees what is the point of having “electric vehicles that will end up being charged by power generated from coal“.

The oil industry, of course, has more than $2 trillion a year at stake from supply liquid fuels to the transport industry, so is not the most enthusiastic supporter of EVS. But at least the likes of Shell and Total can see the future.

The comments were noted on Twitter by Reuters energy markets correspondent Devika Krishnak and echoed by Smithsonian advisory board member Christine Arena.

Where do we start??

Coming from the CEO of the multinational oil and gas corporation that in 1989 was responsible for the major environmental disaster that was the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, it is a pretty astonishing and damning comment.

For a start, while there are still a large proportion of grids around the world that are powered by coal (NSW and Victoria, we’re looking at you), as renewable sources of power continue to grow and aging coal stations shut down, this will become less.

But even when powered off a coal-powered grid, electric vehicles are still more 40% efficient than fossil-fuelled vehicles.

This is not a little-known fact, it is based on research that was published by BloombergNEF in January – which also noted that this will only improve as renewables increase.

“When an internal combustion vehicle rolls off the line its emissions per km are set, but for an EV they keep falling every year as the grid gets cleaner,” BNEF transport analyst Colin McKerracher said at the time.

There’s more. Electric vehicles have benefits in more ways than just reducing carbon emissions.

Uptake of electric vehicles over fossil-fuelled vehicles – especially diesel – will reduce the amount of other emissions thse vehicles are responsible for, such as the extremely damaging NOx (nitrogen oxides) and PM2.5 pollution.

A 2018 World Health Organisation report published terrifying figures that said one in ten children under the age of 5 are dying from exposure to air pollution, particularly PM2.5 particulate pollution.

The Australian Electric Vehicle Council noted in its 2019 “Cleaner and Safer Roads for NSW” report that billions of dollars could be saved in health costs stemming from the use of fossil-fuelled transport simply by switching to zero emissions options such as electric vehicles.

The comments by Woods come as Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg visits a UN Climate Summit in New York, inspiring million to strike to urge leaders and corporations to act on reducing carbon emissions.

Her stirring speech delivered on Monday night (Australian time) has drawn an astonishing number of unforgivable comments from oinks and dinosaurs peddling misinformed attitudes denying climate change and the action that must be taken before it is too late.

The comments made by Woods suggest that he is also clearly intent on putting himself in that basket.

At the very least, as Arena puts it, “a wealthy white male impersonating smart. That’s rich!”

Correction: A previous version of this article neglected to clarify that in regard to the WHO report findings that one in ten child deaths are caused by air pollution refers to children under the age of five.

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