Share buybacks shouldn’t slow the pace of the oil and gas giant’s march towards renewables

The middle of the Cop26 climate conference was not an ideal moment to demonstrate that producing, refining and trading hydrocarbons remains a spectacularly lucrative business when the stars align. “We’re a cash machine at these types of prices,” declared the BP chief executive, Bernard Looney, cheerfully, referring to oil at $85 a barrel and gas still at multi-year highs.

His description is accurate. The oddity of accounting rules around hedging policies meant BP showed a formal loss in the third quarter of this year, but the surer guide to the current financial bonanza was the underlying profit of $3.3bn (£2.2bn). Remember that BP barely broke even in the equivalent period last year. The vaccine-led recovery in the global economy has transformed the outlook.

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