ConocoPhillips is one of the six supermajor oil companies, with operations in 30 countries and $155 billion in assets. It is the sixth largest company in the U.S. and is the third largest U.S. oil company after ExxonMobil and Chevron. ConocoPhillips is the largest producer of natural gas in North America and is third to BP and Chevron in U.S. oil production. Conoco's history stems back to 1875 as a Utah kerosene company, becoming ConocoPhillips after a merger in 2002. The company also owns Tosco and Burlington Resources, and the Union 76 brand.
With the exception of a dramatic loss in 2008 due to a poorly timed merger, ConocoPhillips is consistently one of the most profitable companies in the world. Their net income from 2005-2009 was $28.78 billion, and another $9.3 billion has been made in the first three quarters of 2010.
From 2008-2012 ConocoPhillips has spent over $69 million on federal lobbying and another $2 million in political contributions since the 2008 election cycle. This money has successfully weakened bills that are counter to the company’s ambitions—tar sands expansion, hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, offshore oil drilling, pipeline expansion in Alaska, and chemical manufacturing. In 2010 alone, the company spent over $16 million on a massive lobbying effort, trumping other oil and gas company lobbying expenditures.
Pollution, Emissons, and Opposition to Climate Legislation
The Political Economy Research Institute ranks ConocoPhillips number 11 on their list of the 100 worst U.S. polluters, higher than any other energy company. According to the company’s records, 64.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (or CO2 equivalent of more potent greenhouse gases, such as methane) were released in 2008. In 2010, ConocoPhillips was fined $175,000 by the Environmental Protection Agency for violating the Clean Air Act through the release of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and other chemicals on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation.
ConocoPhillips worked directly within the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) to influence the outcome of House and Senate bills. ConocoPhillips and BP dropped their membership from USCAP in February. At that point, progress on passing a climate bill in the Senate was clearly obstructed.
In cooperation with Shell and BP, ConocoPhillips attemped to add language to Senate climate legislation that would have ensured the EPA could not play a role in hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. Hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") has been tied to water contamination, leading to health problems and even flammable tap water through the undisclosed chemicals used in fracking, material released underground in the process, and the gas itself.
Insuffient Oil Spill Response Plan in Gulf of Mexico
As was revealed with all major U.S. oil companies, ConocoPhillip’s spill response plan in the Gulf of Mexico is almost identical to BP’s. ConocoPhillip’s report includes the references to walrus protection and contact information for a scientist who has been dead for four years. Like BP, ConocoPhillips has ties to judges and other officials who have authority in responding to the Deepwater Horizon disaster and regulating offshore drilling.
In Alberta, Canada, ConocoPhillips is one of the major investors and operators in the Alberta tar sands, the largest industrial project on earth. Whether obtained through strip-mining or Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) methods, the extraction of tar sands in the Athabasca involves clearcutting ancient boreal forest and heavily contaminating waterways, leading to high levels of rare and deadly cancer, autoimmune disease and other illnesses in aboriginal communities downstream. ConocoPhillips plans to quadruple its tar sands production by 2015. Due to this strong interest, the Canadian branches of ConocoPhillips have worked against a low-carbon fuel standard in the U.S.
In Peru, ConocoPhillips is partnering with the London-based Perenco company to construct an oil pipeline (through the use of dynamite) that will supplement drilling exploration in the western Amazon. According to an Amazon Watch report, ConocoPhillips owns exploration rights in five land parcels that total 10.5 million acres in the ecologically sensitive Peruvian Amazon. Indigenous people who live in voluntary isolation are known to inhabit the region, but their presence is denied by the Peruvian government and Perenco. ConocoPhillips has taken advantage of this denial to move exploration forward.