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Rail cars carrying crude oil are seen on April 24, 2020 near Odessa, Texas.

Rail cars carrying crude oil are seen on April 24, 2020 near Odessa, Texas. (Photo: Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images)

Fossil Fuel CEOs Making 'Unconscionable Profits' Amid Ukraine Crisis: Analysis

"The fracking industry is seeking a long-term strategy to deepen global dependence on dirty fossil fuels," said one researcher. "It is nothing short of a cynical exploitation of a genuine crisis."

Kenny Stancil

While consumers are getting pummeled by skyrocketing gas prices and energy bills, a new analysis out Wednesday found the value of shares held by the CEOs of just eight fossil fuel corporations has surged by nearly $100 million since the start of the year—further evidence, experts say, that oil and fracking executives are capitalizing on Russia's invasion of Ukraine to consolidate their wealth.

The executives of fracking and liquefied natural gas (LNG) companies Cheniere, EQT, and EOG Resources; pipeline giants Kinder Morgan and Enbridge; and industry powerhouses Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and ExxonMobil see Russia's deadly assault, which began on February 24, as a "goldmine" and "are in a mad dash to profit" from it, according to researchers at Food & Water Watch.

"While carnage happens in Ukraine, these predators are taking advantage of global price increases that have sent company stocks soaring," they wrote, adding: 

The value of Cheniere CEO Jack Fusco's company stock is up $25 million from January to March 10. ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods' stock holdings have increased by $25 million over the same period. The value of Kinder Morgan CEO Steven Kean's stock has jumped nearly $15 million. Some of these corporate leaders have sold shares to cash in on the crisis. ConocoPhillips' Ryan Lance sold shares for $23 million in mid-February, while Chevron's Michael Wirth sold $14 million in stock by late February.

"This data shows that a small handful of fossil fuel CEOs are making enormous and unconscionable profits from this invasion and the ensuing humanitarian crisis," Food & Water Watch research director Amanda Starbuck said in a statement.

Big Oil raked in record profits last year as average gas prices steadily increased. Oil and gas costs have climbed even higher during the first three months of 2022, accelerating in the two weeks since President Joe Biden announced a U.S. ban on imports of Russian fossil fuels.

The average price for a gallon of gas in the U.S. is now hovering around $4.24, and given that the United Kingdom and the European Union have also taken steps to restrict imports of Russian oil and gas, fossil fuel executives are reportedly salivating at the prospect of forcing consumers to accept higher costs amid the war.

Many fossil fuel firms, including those examined by Food & Water Watch, have rewarded investors with share buybacks and dividend bumps in recent months.

According to researchers, the eight companies under scrutiny "announced stock buybacks and repurchase authorizations in the last year totaling over $25 billion. That amassed wealth is equivalent to filling up 500,000,000 gas tanks with 10 gallons of gas at $5 a gallon. It's also enough to heat the homes of over 33 million people for the winter (assuming a $750 gas bill)."

Even before Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale attack on Ukraine, the U.S. fossil fuel industry and members of Congress who are heavily invested in it advocated for further ramping up fracked gas exports to Europe, portraying it as vital to the continent's security.  

In a DeSmog essay published Wednesday, journalist Stella Levantesi characterized the oil and gas sector's calls for "energy independence," which have only grown stronger in recent weeks, as "'peace-washing' the fossil fuels that enabled this conflict."

As Food & Water Watch pointed out, the fossil fuel industry is also trying to "peddle LNG" as a purportedly climate-friendly solution.

EQT, the largest gas company in the U.S., recently launched what researchers called "a brazen PR campaign" titled "Unleashing U.S. LNG: The Largest Green Initiative on the Planet."

"The climate crisis demands a shift away from fossil fuels, and these companies are attempting to drive us in the opposite direction."

The report cites EQT CEO Toby Rice, who described LNG as "one of the world's largest weapons to combat climate change," and claimed that "it would allow us to provide energy security to our allies while weakening the energy dominance of our adversaries."

In reality, Food & Water Watch responded, "LNG transportation and export has significant environmental, public health, and safety impacts. Further taking into account the life cycle including leaks, fracked gas can be as bad or worse for the climate than coal, especially in the short term."

According to Starbuck, "The fracking industry is seeking a long-term strategy to deepen global dependence on dirty fossil fuels."

"It is nothing short of a cynical exploitation of a genuine crisis," she added.

Over the past ten years, a drilling and fracking boom turned the Permian Basin of the U.S. Southwest into the most productive oil and gas field in the world, and Congress' decision to lift a ban on crude exports in late 2015 led to a surge in the construction of pipelines and related infrastructure. Earlier this year, the U.S. became the world's top LNG exporter.

The report cites numerous fossil fuel executives, including Chevron CEO Colin Parfit, who said earlier this month—in reference to his company's Permian drilling projects—that "the U.S. isn't big enough to absorb it all, so essentially you need to create export alternatives for all of it."

Starbuck, meanwhile, emphasized that "the climate crisis demands a shift away from fossil fuels, and these companies are attempting to drive us in the opposite direction."

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