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Crude Prices Are Recovering, But Oil Companies Are Far From A Return To Normal

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The pandemic has led to reduced commuting, less travel and therefore, a big blow to the oil industry. NPR's Camila Domonoske reports.

CAMILA DOMONOSKE, BYLINE: Here's how Bernard Looney, the CEO of BP, kicked off his conversation with investors.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BERNARD LOONEY: The COVID pandemic has been, first, a human tragedy. It's taken lives and challenged our mental health. It has also impacted the global economy significantly. And we've seen the impact in our sector.

DOMONOSKE: BP barely eked out a profit. Chevron had a surprise loss. ExxonMobil announced its biggest quarterly loss ever, more than $20 billion. Vaccines are being distributed now, and crude oil prices have been recovering, but oil execs still sound a note of caution. Here's Exxon CEO, Darren Woods.

DARREN WOODS: We haven't - we're not kind of taking that to the bank, so to speak.

DOMONOSKE: One question is how long this vaccine rollout will take. And there are other questions. Jason Gabelman is an analyst with Cowen.

JASON GABELMAN: Things like teleworking likely will not fully go away when offices reopen. And you'll have more Zoom calls replace air travel for live meetings.

DOMONOSKE: That's demand that may never come back. Another huge question is, how swiftly will the world act to fight global warming?

CAROLYN KISSANE: It's happening pretty quickly. I think a lot of people saw that it was, like, on the horizon. But it's happening, I think, much faster than, you know, many people thought it would.

DOMONOSKE: That's Carolyn Kissane of NYU. As the world changes, oil producers may have to change, too, even Exxon, which often dedicates zero seconds of its earnings presentations to concerns about climate. This week, the company spent nine minutes talking about its plans for reducing its carbon footprint.

Camila Domonoske, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.