BP pumped billions of pounds into low-carbon technology and green energy over a number of decades but gradually retired the programme to focus almost exclusively on its fossil fuel business, the Guardian has established.
The Guardian reported that at one stage the company, whose annual general meeting is in London on Thursday, was spending in-house around £300m a year on research alone.
The energy efficiency programme employed 4,400 research scientists and R&D support staff at bases in Sunbury, Berkshire, and Cleveland, Ohio, among other locations, while $8bn was directly invested over five years in zero- or low-carbon energy.
But almost all of the technology was sold off and much of the research locked away in a private corporate archive.
An investigation by the Guardian has established that the British oil company is doing far less now on developing low-carbon technologies than it was in the 1980s and early 1990s.
As recently as 2003 the then-chief executive John Browne appeared to see a bright future for a low-carbon energy group, bringing in Ogilvy & Mather to launch a $200m rebranding campaign.
BP introduced its new slogan “Beyond Petroleum” and changed its 70-year-old, shield-style logo to a more upbeat and eco-friendly green and yellow sunburst.
Six years earlier Browne had differentiated himself from his rivals by leaving the main industry body campaigning against carbon controls, the Global Climate Coalition, instead talking openly of the threat caused by global warming.
By 2007 Browne had left the company to his successor Tony Hayward who closed down BP Solar in 2011, on the grounds that it did not make money.
Two years earlier, in 2009, Hayward had scrapped BP Alternative Energy as a stand-alone business, slashed its budget and said goodbye to its boss Vivienne Cox.
In 2013, under an even newer chief executive, Bob Dudley, all the wind farms which at one stage were located in nine different American states and produced 2,600 megawatts were put up for sale.
A major group of shareholders have called on the company to address climate change more robustly through a resolution to be heard at the AGM.
BP management says it supports the resolution but ultimately believes that politicians must take primary responsibility for tackling global warming and hastening in a low-carbon future.