Why BP bailed on the oil industry’s one “bright spot”

Plastics were supposed to be a lifeline for Big Oil.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic bottomed out demand for gasoline and jet fuel, the global transition toward climate-friendly energy and electric vehicles had hobbled their long-term outlook. Keen to diversify, Exxon, Shell, Chevron, Saudi Aramco, and other oil majors have been collectively spending $40 billion a year on greenhouse gas-emitting petrochemical facilities.

Petrochemicals like ethylene, benzene, and methanol are found in everything from tires and pharmaceuticals to fertilizer and laundry detergent. But their main application is in plastic.

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