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Exxon CEO Darren Woods blames public for failure to fix ‘climate change’

The world isn’t on track to meet its climate goals — and it’s the public’s fault, a leading oil company CEO told journalists.

Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO Darren Woods told editors from Fortune that the world has “waited too long” to begin investing in a broader suite of technologies to slow planetary heating.

Since taking over from former CEO Rex Tillerson, Woods has walked a tightrope between acknowledging the critical problem of climate change — as well as the role of fossil fuels in helping drive it — while insisting fossil fuels must also provide the solution.

In comments before last year’s United Nations Climate Conference (COP28), Woods made a forceful case for carbon capture and storage, a technology in which the planet-heating chemicals released by burning fossil fuels are collected and stored underground.

“While renewable energy is essential to help the world achieve net zero, it is not sufficient,” he said.

“Wind and solar alone can’t solve emissions in the industrial sectors that are at the heart of a modern society.”

In his comments Tuesday, Woods argued the “dirty secret” is that customers weren’t willing to pay for the added cost of cleaner fossil fuels.

Referring to carbon capture, Woods said Exxon has “tabled proposals” with governments “to get out there and start down this path using existing technology.”

“People can’t afford it, and governments around the world rightly know that their constituents will have real concerns,” he added.

“So we’ve got to find a way to get the cost down to grow the utility of the solution, and make it more available and more affordable, so that you can begin the [clean energy] transition.”

For example, he said Exxon “could, today, make sustainable aviation fuel for the airline business. But the airline companies can’t afford to pay.”

Woods blamed “activists” for trying to exclude the fossil fuel industry from the fight to slow rising temperatures, even though the sector is “the industry that has the most capacity and the highest potential for helping with some of the technologies.”