Even in this down economy, there are people who are still interested in environmental issues, and Exxon Mobil (XOM) is not about to be left off the bandwagon. The company is releasing ads that highlight its focus on environmental protection and alternative energy. The question, though, is whether this is more Big Oil greenwashing or if XOM is sincere in its efforts.
On the one hand, it seems a moot point. XOM is an energy company — and one with a profitable business model at that. As long as the company earns profits, whether or not the company is environmentally friendly may be immaterial. On the other hand is the fact than many people (consumers and politicians alike) are looking into Big Oil. They are upset about rising fuel costs (although those costs are retreating now), and there is growing interest in alternative energy. Exxon sees this, and is working to position itself as one of the companies working toward energy solutions.
Exxon, along with other Big Oil companies, has increased its funding for different types of energy. The company is looking into other fuels that include liquified natural gas and priorities that include hybrid cars. If our politicians are serious about developing alternatives to oil, then Big Oil needs to be invested in alternatives. This is the only way to remain profitable in an energy economy that shifts away from oil.
Disclosure: I do not invest in XOM. I do not invest in Big Oil.