Exxon CEO announces layoffs, cites climate ‘challenge’

Source: By Carlos Anchondo, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, October 22, 2020

Exxon Mobil Corp. announced job cuts yesterday due to the coronavirus pandemic and the destruction it’s caused the global oil and gas sector.

Speaking at an employee forum, Exxon CEO Darren Woods praised workers for their personal sacrifices before noting that staff reductions are necessary at the Texas-based oil giant. He did not specify how many employees would be laid off.

“Making the organization more efficient and more nimble will reduce the number of required positions and, unfortunately, reduce the number of people we need,” Woods said in remarks delivered via email to all Exxon employees.

Casey Norton, an Exxon spokesperson, declined to give details about the number of employees who would be impacted or when the cuts would occur.

“We informed employees today that the U.S. workforce study is under review and nearing completion,” Norton said in an email. “We anticipate communicating further details to our employees very soon.”

Exxon, which moved quickly this week to quash President Trump’s mention of a hypothetical fundraising call between Trump and Woods, has faced a string of financial setbacks in recent weeks (Energywire, Oct. 20). Early this month, rival Chevron Corp. overtook it as the largest U.S. oil company by market capitalization, and Exxon was separately cut out from the Dow Jones Industrial Average in August after a more than 90-year run.

Still, Woods yesterday rejected the idea that the oil and gas industry would not recover after the COVID-19 crisis subsides.

“Energy is essential for human progress and, as people’s lives improve, their consumption of energy increases,” Woods said in his statement.

Woods spoke to the “dual challenge” of addressing climate change and meeting the world’s energy needs — a familiar refrain for Exxon — and said oil and gas would play “an important role in the long-term energy mix” even as low-carbon energy sources make up a bigger share of the pie.

However, reports from groups like the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a London-based financial think tank, have ranked Exxon as one of the least prepared oil majors to face an energy transition away from fossil fuels (Energywire, Oct. 9).

For now, Woods said, the company would focus on staying “nimble.”

“Irrespective of short-term volatility, we must stay safe, maintain the integrity of our operations, drive efficiencies and continue investing,” he said.