I have found myself a few times stepping to the defence of big oil, and I think I should make my position clear.
Firstly, big oil isn't that big altogether. They hold 12% of the proven reserves. A bigger problem is big government oil (National oil companies - NOCs) than big private oil.
Secondly, I have a belief that natural resources should be taxed heavily. Norway has a 78% excess profit hydrocarbon extraction tax and I think that is the best solution to ensure equitable sharing between those taking risks (the owners of companies) and the owners of resources (population of countries). Around 80% of all extraction is also done by the Norwegian NOC, which is owned around 80% by the country. I really don't see why Norway needs to own 80% when owning 50+n% is sufficient for national control.
Thirdly, in a presentation I was told that big oil hands in about as many patents as the much larger NOCs do. I don't know if it is entirely correct, but they are definately on the forefront of technology. I take that as evidence that NOCs somehow are innately less innovative. Since the only major difference being ownership, I believe this must play a part.
Fourth, I do not want to be criticised as claming that big oil is innately just or good, I am merely attempting to state that on balance, the good outweighs the harm. I know of the disasters and the improper political connections, I am attempting to correct for that. It's why I'm for strict regulation, but not an outright ban until we have sufficiently advanced replacement tech. And I find that nuclear is the way to go, all the others just rely on nuclear at a distance - the radiation of the sun.
Lastly, oil companies are not the cause of oil. It's our desire for products that improve our lifes which cause oil, big oil is a mere conduit. I find it dishonest when people criticise big oil from a product which contains lots of it. If so engaged, cut your own consumption first before telling anyone to curtail theirs.
It's not really an exhaustive defense of position, just some of the observations that tipe the scale for me.