The annual meetings of some of the world’s largest oil companies this week were like therapy sessions for an industry that is suffering from existential angst. The international objective of holding the increase in global temperatures to “well below” 2C, agreed at the Paris climate talks last year, implies the obsolescence of all fossil fuel production within the next few decades. The oil companies have not yet reconciled themselves to quite what this means.  If governments stick to that commitment, fossil fuel companies will either have to find ways to stop greenhouse gas emissions from their products, or shift into renewable energy, or go out of business. At the annual meetings of oil groups includingExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, that prospect was argued over by executives and shareholders, without conclusive result.  In their public presentation, at least, the European groups including Shell and Total are more willing to face up to the threat of climate change than their US rivals. While accepting the conclusions of climate science, Exxon and Chevron stress the importance of energy security and affordability over reducing emissions.

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