HOUSTON — Over the past 135 years, Exxon Mobil has survived hostile governments, ill-fated investments and the catastrophic Exxon Valdez oil spill. By all of it, the oil firm made bundles of cash.

However all of the sudden Exxon is slipping badly, its lengthy latent vulnerabilities exposed by the coronavirus pandemic and technological shifts that promise to remodel the power world due to rising issues about local weather change.

The corporate, for many years one of the crucial worthwhile and helpful American companies, misplaced $2.4 billion within the first 9 months of the 12 months, and its share worth is down about 35 % this 12 months. In August, Exxon was tossed out of the Dow Jones industrial common, changed by Salesforce, a software program firm. The change symbolized the passing of the baton from Large Oil to an more and more dominant know-how trade.

“Is Exxon a survivor?” requested Jennifer Rowland, an power analyst at Edward Jones. “After all they’re, with nice world belongings, nice folks, nice technical know-how. However the query actually is, can they thrive? There may be numerous skepticism about that proper now.”

Exxon is underneath rising stress from traders. D.E. Shaw, a longtime shareholder that not too long ago elevated its stake in Exxon, is demanding that the corporate reduce prices and enhance its environmental file, based on an individual briefed on the matter. One other activist investor, Engine No. 1, is pushing for similar changes in an effort backed by the California State Academics Retirement System and the Church of England. And on Wednesday, the New York State comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, mentioned the state’s $226 billion pension fund would sell shares in oil and gas companies that didn’t transfer quick sufficient to cut back emissions.

After all, each oil firm is scuffling with the collapse in power demand this 12 months and as world leaders, together with President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., pledge to address climate change. As well as, many utilities, automakers and different companies have pledged to significantly cut back or get rid of the usage of fossil fuels, the most important supply of greenhouse gasoline emissions, and have embraced wind and solar energy and electrical autos.

European corporations like Royal Dutch Shell and BP have already begun to pivot away from fossil fuels. However Exxon, like most American oil corporations, has doubled down on its commitment to oil and gas and is making comparatively small investments in applied sciences that might assist decelerate local weather change.

As not too long ago as final month, Exxon reaffirmed it plans to extend fossil gasoline manufacturing, although at a slower tempo. The corporate is investing billions of {dollars} to supply oil and gasoline within the Permian Basin, which straddles Texas and New Mexico, and in offshore fields in Guyana, Brazil and Mozambique.

Exxon dedicated to its technique even because it acknowledged that one in every of its earlier large bets didn’t go effectively. Exxon mentioned it will write down the worth of its pure gasoline belongings, most of which it purchased round 2010, by as much as $20 billion. The corporate can also be shedding about 14,000 staff, or 15 % of its whole, over the following 12 months or in order it seeks to chop prices and defend a dividend that it had elevated yearly for practically 4 a long time till this 12 months.

But when this disaster is an existential risk, there was no acknowledgment from Exxon’s government suite, nonetheless identified within the firm because the “God Pod.”

“Regardless of the present volatility and near-term uncertainty, the long-term fundamentals that drive our enterprise stay robust and unchanged,” Darren W. Woods, the corporate’s chairman and chief government since 2017, mentioned at a current shareholders assembly.

Exxon is understood within the oil world as an insular firm with a inflexible tradition that slows adoptive, pivotal change. It has been that means since John D. Rockefeller based the corporate within the late nineteenth century as Customary Oil, a monopoly later damaged up by the federal government.

An accountant by coaching, Rockefeller instilled a deep dedication to quantity crunching that is still within the firm’s DNA. Exxon is primarily run by engineers who usually work their means as much as senior roles. Its executives venture dedication of their potential to navigate each conceivable hurdle like OPEC oil embargoes, battle and sanctions. Such confidence is probably essential to run an organization that does enterprise in harmful or inhospitable locations.

As a educated electrical engineer and 28-year firm veteran, Mr. Woods speaks with the identical cool self-assurance as his extra well-known predecessors. However he has stored a decrease profile than Lee R. Raymond, who dismissed issues about local weather change within the Nineteen Nineties and early 2000s, and Rex W. Tillerson, whose worldwide wheeling and dealing between 2006 and 2016 helped him change into President Trump’s first secretary of state.

Whereas Mr. Raymond and Mr. Tillerson had been dominant figures within the trade, they left Mr. Woods with many issues that had been no less than partly obscured by greater oil and gasoline costs.

Mr. Raymond’s public skepticism of local weather change broken the corporate’s popularity. Mr. Tillerson was gradual to reap the benefits of shale drilling, which lifted the American oil trade. His foray into the previous Soviet Union and Iraq proved to be costly failures. When he bought XTO a decade in the past for over $30 billion to accumulate fracking experience and prized pure gasoline fields, gasoline costs had been at their peak. Because the commodity worth declined within the years since, the corporate misplaced cash and wrote off a lot of the funding final month.

“Darren Woods has inherited an organization that has made large bets lately that weren’t profitable,” mentioned Fadel Gheit, a retired Wall Road analyst who was an engineer in analysis and growth at Mobil earlier than its merger with Exxon in 1999.

“Exxon Mobil is sort of a large cruise ship,” he added. “You’ll be able to’t change course in a single day. They will climate the storm however not go far. They should remodel to remain related.”

Mr. Raymond declined to remark. Mr. Tillerson didn’t reply to a request for remark. Exxon responded to questions primarily by referring to earlier public statements by Mr. Woods and the corporate.

Casey Norton, an organization spokesman, mentioned the acquisition of XTO had “introduced folks and know-how along with potential sources” that helped the corporate achieve success in shale fields within the Permian Basin.

Within the first few years on the job, Mr. Woods adopted the broad technique set by Mr. Tillerson by borrowing and investing closely to develop manufacturing. The pandemic pressured Mr. Woods to vary course. The corporate now plans to spend one-third less on exploration and production by 2025 than it had initially deliberate.

But the modifications Exxon is making, whereas large in absolute phrases, look like tinkering in contrast with what European oil corporations are doing. BP has introduced that it’ll increase investments in low-emission businesses tenfold over the following decade, to $5 billion a 12 months, whereas shrinking oil and gasoline manufacturing by 40 %. Royal Dutch Shell, Whole of France and different European corporations are making related strikes at various speeds.

The one main American oil firm that comes near setting European-style targets is Occidental Petroleum. It not too long ago pledged to succeed in internet zero carbon emissions from its operations by 2040 and from the usage of its gasoline by 2050. It’s constructing a plant in Texas to seize carbon dioxide from the air and use it to push crude oil out of the ground whereas leaving the greenhouse gasoline underground for perpetuity.

“We’ve moved from the shale period to the power transition period, so there’s a better divergence of methods among the many corporations, the widest it’s ever been in fashionable instances,” mentioned Daniel Yergin, an power historian and the writer of “The New Map: Vitality, Local weather, and the Conflict of Nations.” “Now the massive debate is will oil peak within the 2020s or the 2030s or the 2050s?”

Exxon executives have mentioned they acknowledge an power transition is underway and essential. However they’ve additionally asserted that it wouldn’t make sense for the corporate to get into the photo voltaic or wind power enterprise. As a substitute, the corporate is investing in breakthrough applied sciences. One such venture entails utilizing algae to supply gasoline for vehicles and airplanes. Exxon has been speaking about that venture for years however has but to start business manufacturing.

Exxon refineries may also sometime change into main producers of hydrogen, which many consultants consider could play an important role in reducing emissions. The corporate is betting on carbon seize and sequestration. One venture entails directing carbon emitted from industrial operations right into a gasoline cell that may generate energy, lowering emissions whereas producing extra energy.

“Breakthroughs in these areas are vital to lowering emissions and would make a significant contribution to attaining the targets of the Paris settlement, which we assist,” Mr. Woods mentioned in a message to staff in October, referring to the 2016 world local weather accord.

Vitality consultants mentioned it was potential that Exxon might give you new makes use of for carbon dioxide like strengthening concrete or making carbon fiber, which might substitute metal and different supplies.

“If Exxon and different main oil trade gamers crack these nuts, your entire dialogue about hydrocarbons modifications,” mentioned Kenneth B. Medlock III, a senior director on the Heart for Vitality Research at Rice College. “That type of change is gradual till it’s not. Take into consideration wind and photo voltaic, which had been gradual till they weren’t.”

An enormous enhance in oil and gasoline costs might additionally allay a number of the issues concerning the firm, no less than quickly. In current weeks, as oil costs have climbed on optimism a couple of coronavirus vaccine, so has Exxon’s inventory.

Vijay Swarup, Exxon’s vp for analysis and growth, mentioned in a current interview that the corporate understood it wanted to decrease emissions and was growing higher fuels, lubricants and plastics.

“As we’re growing that pathway to get there, we will’t cease offering reasonably priced, scalable power,” Mr. Swarup mentioned.

However John Browne, a former BP chief government, mentioned it was not clear that Exxon and the opposite large American corporations would remodel their companies adequately for a low-carbon future.

“They could determine simply to hold on and harvest and say, ‘Let’s see what occurs in the long term,’” he mentioned. “That’s fairly a dangerous technique these days.”

Lauren Hirsch contributed reporting.