London — Total on Jan. 15 became the first global oil and gas major to leave the US' pre-eminent oil industry group, the American Petroleum Institute, citing its backing for the Trump administration's continued opposition to the Paris climate agreement and other climate-related policies.
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In a statement, Total said it diverged from the API in three key areas: the group's campaigning to roll back methane emissions regulation, its involvement in campaigning against government funding for electric vehicles, and carbon pricing issues.
In addition, the API "gave its support during the recent elections to candidates who argued against the US' participation in the Paris Agreement," Total said.
CEO Patrick Pouyanne said while Total "acknowledges the API's considerable contribution, for over a century, to the development of our industry. Nevertheless, as part of our Climate Ambition made public in May 2020, we are committed to ensuring, in a transparent manner, that the industry associations of which we are a member adopt positions and messages that are aligned with those of [Total] in the fight against climate change."
"This transparency responds to our stakeholders' expectations, as well as being an essential guarantee of the credibility of our strategy."
The decision comes as the API has been setting out its approach to the incoming Biden administration in the US, with CEO Mike Sommers saying Jan. 13 the institute would firmly oppose any new limits on drilling on federal land, and signaling likely opposition to federal support for electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
Total has been growing its presence in the US Gulf of Mexico deepwater oil sector, taking a final investment decision in December on the Anchor oil development and advancing plans for another project, North Platte, but has also deepened its renewables investments, including with its 2011 purchase of California-based SunPower.
Like other European oil and gas companies, it has committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, although this ambition is confined to Europe when it comes to emissions resulting from end-use of its products.
Both Shell and Total have withdrawn from a number of US industry associations in recent years on climate grounds. But Total's exit from the API is likely to be seen as more significant due to the scale of the institute and its membership base, and underlines perceptions of a divergence between the European majors and US counterparts on climate.
BP withdrew last year from the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), the Western States Petroleum Association and the Western Energy Alliance, while Shell withdrew from the AFPM in 2019.
Total produced 111,000 b/d of oil equivalent in the US in 2019, of which liquids comprised around a third.