Every time they are in the spotlight for the disastrous effects of their business, fossil fuel companies serve up the same old fraudulent arguments. Tired of their bogus excuses? So are we. Here are their most common lies and the facts to counter them.

Murray Auchincloss, BP, in a retouched image (left). Local resident during floods in Philippines (bottom). Disclaimer: Images of CEOs used in this campaign are staged and doctored for illustrative purposes. Illustrations are created without the use of generative AI.
Murray Auchincloss, BP, in a retouched image (left). Local resident during floods in Philippines (right).
Disclaimer: Images of CEOs used in this campaign are staged and doctored for illustrative purposes. Illustrations are created without the use of generative AI. © Basilio Sepe / Greenpeace

False Excuse #1: “We’re only responding to consumer demand”

This is one of the classic arguments for climate inaction from fossil fuel companies: deflecting their responsibilities onto consumers rather than engaging in a real energy transition. No altruistic desire to meet the needs of the population here. They are simply prioritising their profits (in 2023, while people struggled to pay their energy bills, fossil fuel companies made record-breaking profits) and betting on the profitability of oil and gas, at the expense of the environment, the climate, and our health.

They are even doing everything they can to keep us addicted to gas. In Europe, fossil fuel companies have cynically used the war in Ukraine and exploited fears of an energy crisis to push fossil gas as the only solution to avoid it, and con European states into massive, unnecessary investments. We’ve seen this with TotalEnergies’ LNG terminal in France, or OMV’s Neptun Deep gas drilling project in Romania, among other projects.

False Excuse #2: “Gas is a transition energy”

The idea that fossil gas is a clean or low-carbon energy is completely false. It is a fossil fuel, just like coal and oil, and it already accounts for 22% of global greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion. Its consequences are not limited to the climate: environmental damage, biodiversity destruction, human rights violations, geopolitical conflicts

And contrary to what gas companies often claim, a fully renewable energy system does not need fossil gas. In 2018, Costa Rica ran on renewable energy alone for 300 days. Many studies also show that a 100% renewable energy system is already possible in many countries, including Germany or the Philippines. Eliminating gas can be done by replacing gas with renewable energy solutions through electrification, reducing overall energy demand through efficiency and sufficiency, and developing energy storage and demand flexibility.

False Excuse #3: “We won’t move away from fossil fuels overnight”

To justify their climate-damaging activities, fossil fuel companies constantly use this ‘wait and see’ argument. Remember, they have known about the climate crisis and the damage they are causing for decades, yet they continue to bet on fossil fuel development.

The climate crisis is escalating. To stay within the 1.5 degree target, all new gas, oil and coal projects must be stopped immediately and fossil fuels must be phased out by mid-century, with industrialised countries taking the lead. We won’t move away from fossil fuels overnight, but we need to do so quickly. For this energy transition to succeed, it has to meet the needs of the population, to ensure a fair transition for workers, and it needs to start now.

False Excuse #4: “We’re investing a lot in renewable energy”

It’s crystal clear: fossil fuel companies intend to remain so for as long as possible. While they use renewables in their advertising to greenwash their business, actual investment in renewable energy is minimal. Only 7.3% of 12 major European oil and gas companies’ 2022 investments went towards green energy – the remaining 92.7% was funding fossil business as usual, and in some cases even its expansion. The share of renewable energy in these 12 companies’ energy mix in 2022 was on average below 1%. And globally, oil and gas companies currently only account for 1% of all global investments into clean energy.

These numbers clearly show that the fossil fuel industry does not play a role in the global energy transition and cannot be taken seriously. Many fossil fuel companies have even announced plans to further increase oil and gas production in the coming years.

False Excuse #5: “We contribute to the economy and improve living conditions in developing countries”

The exploitation of oil and gas primarily serves the private interests of fossil fuel companies. Fossil fuel projects developed in Global Majority countries – often by corporations headquartered in Global Minority countries – are part of a neocolonial logic. Corrupt elites often pocket the revenues while local communities suffer the dangerous consequences of fossil fuel extraction. Expanding fossil fuel extraction in Global Majority countries also locks countries and communities into a toxic fossil-fueled economic system.

In Yemen, TotalEnergies’ oil activities are reportedly causing serious contamination of soil and groundwater, with catastrophic health consequences. In Uganda and Tanzania, people are being dispossessed of their land: it is estimated that over 118,000 people will be displaced by the EACOP and Tilenga projects. Overall, fossil-fuelled human rights abuses are widespread, as Greenpeace Belgium has shown.

False Excuse #6: “If we don’t do it, others will”

This is a classic derailment strategy. The response “but what about the other companies” is whataboutism, a technique of responding to an accusation by making a counter-accusation or raising another issue. Moreover, this is not reality. In 2018, Greenpeace France mobilised to stop the TotalEnergies project in the Amazon reef. Following this decision, no other company has started oil exploration in this protected area.

Lisa Göldner is the Lead Campaigner of Greenpeace’s Fossil Free Future, based in Germany.

Overflight in Sena Madureira under Flood, Acre, Brazil. © Alexandre Noronha / Greenpeace
Who pays for the damage from extreme weather?

It’s time to make the polluters pay. Sign now to hold the oil and gas corporations accountable, and support a safe and fair future for all.

Add your name