News Roundups

Oil companies endure brutal 2020, pandemic watchdog probles Mnuchin & Cruz, and more

Weekly news headlines about the stimulus and recovery.

Exxon, Chevron CEOs Discussed Merger

The chief executives of Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. spoke about combining the oil giants after the pandemic shook the world last year, according to people familiar with the talks, testing the waters for what could be one of the largest corporate mergers ever.

Chevron Chief Executive Mike Wirth and Exxon CEO Darren Woods discussed a merger following the outbreak of the new coronavirus, which decimated oil and gas demand and put enormous financial strain on both companies, the people said. The discussions were described as preliminary and aren’t ongoing but could come back in the future, the people said.

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Pandemic drives oil major BP to first loss in a decade

BP plunged to a $5.7 billion loss last year, its first in a decade, as the pandemic took a heavy toll on oil demand, and the energy company warned of a tough start to 2021 amid widespread travel restrictions.

Despite the weak environment, however, CEO Bernard Looney told Reuters the company’s transition to a greener future remained on track. It is aiming to ramp up renewable power generation to 50 gigawatts (GW) by 2030 from 3.3 GW currently, while slashing oil output to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Oil Companies Endure Brutal 2020, Warn of Slow 2021 Recovery

The big international oil companies are reporting one of their worst annual performances in decades and signaling that the pandemic could continue to challenge their businesses in 2021.

Exxon Mobil Corp. and BP  on Tuesday disclosed annual losses of $22 billion and $18.1 billion respectively, following Chevron Corp. , which on Friday reported a $5.5 billion loss for 2020.

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Pandemic Watchdog Is Probing Mnuchin, Cruz Roles in Fed Lending

A federal watchdog is looking into former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s decision to roll back the U.S. Federal Reserve’s emergency lending programs at the end of 2020, an issue that has become a point of partisan tension in Congress.

The Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery is also inquiring into Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz’s role in persuading the central bank to expand the eligibility rules for the Main Street Lending Program to make it easier for oil and gas companies to apply for the low interest rate loans.

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The Only Carbon Capture Coal Plant in the U.S. Just Closed

Early last year, the Trump administration’s Department of Energy celebrated a special birthday. “Happy Third Operating Anniversary, Petra Nova!” the agency trumpeted in a press release. The release boasted of a coal-fired power plant in Texas that seemed to have done the impossible: It successfully removed carbon dioxide from the plant’s emissions for three years, safely storing them.

The celebration was early—Petra Nova barely made it to its fourth birthday before being shuttered. Last week, NRG Energy, which owns the project, announced that it would be shut down indefinitely, in what may be one of the last gasps for carbon capture and storage technology in the U.S.

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US shale oil: can a leaner industry ever lure back investors?

Smaller, slower and more profitable. These are the watchwords for Chesapeake Energy as it emerges from bankruptcy. Free of the colossal liabilities that sank it as the pandemic slashed global energy demand last year, the company has also abandoned the growth-at-all-costs strategy that made it a pioneer of the shale revolution — and poster child of the sector’s debt-fuelled excess.

Chesapeake’s market value will be a fraction of the $35bn it boasted more than a decade ago, back when its controversial founder, the late Aubrey McClendon, was America’s best-paid chief executive and his company poured money into everything from Oklahoma real estate to an NBA arena. The new Chesapeake pledges to spend less than it brings in and return the excess to shareholders.

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Shareholders create coalition to pressure Exxon for change

More than 135 investors managing more than $2 trillion are forming a coalition to push Exxon Mobil Corp into making sweeping changes including refreshing its board and focusing more on energy transition, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The group, which includes pension funds, faith-based investors as well traditional money managers, came together in the two months since two activist investors called on Exxon to cut costs, invest in more profitable drilling and clean energy,

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