KAI RYSSDAL: Exxon Mobil chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson was making the rounds in New York today, trying to drum up publicity for the company’s big announcement. Exxon’s going to spend about $20 billion a year through the end of the decade drilling for new oil and natural gas.
The oil giant says the new projects could boost production by about a million barrels a day. But Sam Eaton reports from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, there’s much less to the news than meets the eye.
SAM EATON: Exxon told analysts in New York this morning that it will spend record amounts of money opening more than 20 new global projects over the next three years. The announcement comes on the heels of growing criticism that the oil giant isn’t spending enough to boost reserves in the face of record profits.
But Barbara Shook with the Energy Intelligence Group in Houston says the details of Exxon’s plans are nothing new.
BARBARA SHOOK: They’re just making more of a public presentation of what it was going to do anyway.
Shook says the real question is whether Exxon will be able to deliver on those projects, given geopolitical uncertainty and the increased costs of extraction.
SHOOK: We have seen projects balloon two to three times their original investments in a matter of two or three years.
Even Exxon, which spends more on research and development than any of its competitors, admits it’s being selective. A company spokesman says there’s no shortage of opportunity, but it wants to ensure that the projects it does pursue will have a good rate of return for its investors.
Steven Leeb, author of “The Oil Factor,” says that’s exactly why Exxon is spending more on shareholder buybacks than it is on new exploration.
STEVEN LEEB: If they’re so bullish on oil in the world, that just doesn’t make any sense at all. You would expect them to be putting all their excess cash into finding additional sources of oil.
Leeb says even if Exxon does add another million barrels to its daily output, much of that would be natural gas — not the stuff needed to meet the projected 40 percent rise in global oil demand over the next two decades.
In Los Angeles, I’m Sam Eaton for Marketplace.
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