Drilling the Russian Arctic. Expanding tar sands exploitation in Alberta. Exploring for oil in the South China Sea. These are just a few of the capital-intensive fossil fuel extraction projects that are translating into direct bonus payouts to the CEO's at the helm of the largest oil corporations in the world, The Guardian revealed in a report released Monday.
Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, Total, and BP are rewarding CEOs for tapping new markets, despite warnings from scientists that the vast majority of fossil fuels must remain in the ground in order to stave off the worst of the climate crisis.
These payouts are being made amid the dramatic rise in "upstream activities," defined in the report as investment "focused on colossal engineering projects to bring reserves on tap and, to a lesser extent, on exploration."
"Multi-billion-dollar capital projects amount to huge, long-term bets by the big five that exorbitant costs associated with unlocking hydrocarbon reserves in some of the most inaccessible locations on the planet can eventually be recouped and converted into profits," state journalists Simon Bowers and Harry Davies, citing company reports. "Bonuses for chief executives at all five firms are tied to the achievement of delivery milestones in the construction and deployment of such projects."
The Guardian's analysis draws a direct line between fossil fuel extraction projects and CEOs' accrual of massive amounts of personal wealth:
Shell’s Ben van Beurden, for example, last year received a pay deal worth $32.2m, including bonuses linked to delivering "a high proportion of flagship projects on time and on budget". These are thought to include four platforms floating 1,000 metres or more above deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of Guinea and South China Sea.
Similarly, BP’s Bob Dudley was awarded a pay deal worth $15.3m, with bonuses linked to seven "major projects", thought to include Sunrise, a tar sands joint venture in Canada, as well as projects in Angola, Azerbaijan, the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea.
The boss of Exxon, Rex Tillerson, was paid $33.1m last year including bonus payouts linked to projects including the first well in the Kara Sea, in the Russian Arctic, and the expansion of the Kearl tar sands operations in northern Alberta, Canada.