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French energy giant Total to exit influential U.S. industry group, citing differing climate goals

January 18, 2021, 12:44 PM UTC

French energy giant Total will not renew its membership in the American Petroleum Institute, citing differing views on how the two are addressing climate change.

The company, which is based in Paris, has been active in the U.S. since the late 1950s, and holds assets across shale, LNG, renewables, and petrochemicals. On Friday, it said that, after a review, it had decided its views were only “partially aligned” with the U.S. largest oil and gas industry association.

In particular, Total cited the lobbying group’s support for the rollback of U.S. regulations on methane; its support for the Transportation Fairness Alliance, which opposes subsidies for electric vehicles; and said its views differ on carbon pricing, which Total says is a necessity.

“Moreover, API gave its support during the recent elections to candidates who argued against the United States’ participation the Paris Agreement,” it said in a statement, without providing further details.

Responding to Total’s statement, the API thanked Total for its membership and said, “We believe that the world’s energy and environmental challenges are large enough that many different approaches are necessary to solve them, and we benefit from a diversity of views.”

A spokesperson for the Institute said the API had not made any endorsements in the presidential election, and said that its PAC contributions went to both Democrats and Republicans and was not based on whether those candidates supported the Paris Agreement.

According to a report by the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics cited by Reuters, the API shelled out $109 million in political donations during the 2020 election cycle.

The API also said opposes subsidies for energy in general, and the group has pledged to work with the Biden administration. However, it has also criticized specific policies touted by the incoming administration, arguing that bans on federal leasing and development could result in large losses in jobs and local budgets.

Based in Washington, D.C., the industry association says it has 600 members across the American oil and gas industry, and includes in its membership BP and Shell, as well as Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Equinor.

Total also left the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers last July, also citing “misalignment” between the company’s goals and those of the industry association.

The French company announced in 2020 that it would target net-zero emissions by 2050, and laid out further details about its approach in September 2020. That net-zero target was also announced last year by other European legacy oil and gas majors including Shell, BP, and Norway’s Equinor.

Particularly in Europe, large oil and gas companies have been under pressure to be more transparent about the lobbying and contributions of the industry associations of which they are a member, and whether those group’s goals align with their own public targets—including to meet net-zero by 2050.

This story has been updated to reflect API’s response.