LONDON — Europe’s top oil and gas companies have diverted a larger share of their cash to green energy projects since the coronavirus outbreak in a bet the global health crisis will leave a long-term dent in fossil fuel demand, according to a Reuters review of company statements and interviews with executives.
The plans of companies like BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Total are in step with the European Union’s efforts to transition to a lower-carbon economy and away from a century-old reliance on oil, and reflect the region’s widening rift with the United States where both the government and the top drillers are largely staying committed to oil and gas.
“We are all living differently and there is a real possibility that some of this will stick,” BP Chief Executive Bernard Looney told Reuters in a recent interview, citing big declines in air and road travel, and a boost in telecommuting.
Global oil majors have all cut capital spending sharply as worldwide stay-at-home orders triggered by the coronavirus outbreak slammed fuel demand and sent oil prices to record lows.
But Europe’s top five producers – BP, Shell, Total, Eni , and Equinor – are all focusing their investment cuts mainly on oil and gas activities, and giving their renewables and low carbon businesses a relative boost, according to Reuters calculations.