Corporate climate confusion crusade continues

ExxonMobil continues to fight efforts to tackle climate change in the United States, despite publicly claiming to support the Paris climate agreement, an undercover investigation by Unearthed has found.

A senior lobbyist for Exxon told an undercover reporter that the company had been working to weaken key aspects of President Joe Biden’s flagship initiative on climate change, the American Jobs Plan.

He described Biden’s new plan to slash US greenhouse gas emissions as “insane” and admitted that the company had aggressively fought early climate science through “shadow groups” to protect its investments.

Keith McCoy – a senior director in Exxon’s Washington DC government affairs team – told the undercover reporter that he is speaking to the office of influential Democratic senator Joe Manchin every week, with the aim of drastically reducing the scope of Biden’s climate plan so that “negative stuff”, such as rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions and taxes on oil companies, are removed.

Last week – after weeks of bipartisan talks – President Biden conditionally endorsed a scaled-back version of his infrastructure plan, which eliminates hundreds of billions of dollars of proposed support for climate initiatives.

During the undercover meeting, which took place via Zoom in May, McCoy suggested that Exxon’s public support for a carbon tax as its principal climate policy is an “advocacy tool” and “great talking point” that will never actually happen.

“Nobody is going to propose a tax on all Americans and the cynical side of me says, yeah, we kind of know that but it gives us a talking point that we can say, well what is ExxonMobil for? Well, we’re for a carbon tax,” McCoy said.

A second Exxon lobbyist, Dan Easley – who left the company in January after working as its chief White House lobbyist throughout the Trump administration – laughed when asked by an undercover reporter if the company had achieved many policy wins under Trump, before outlining victories on fossil fuel permitting and the renegotiation of the NAFTA trade agreement.

“The wins are such that it would be difficult to categorise them all,” he said, adding that the biggest victory was Trump’s reduction in the corporate tax rate, which was “probably worth billions to Exxon”.

Unearthed reporters posed as recruitment consultants looking to hire a Washington DC lobbyist for a major client and approached McCoy and Easley for meetings over Zoom. During the meetings, the undercover reporter asked about Exxon’s current and historical lobbying on environmental issues.

It is important to note that neither McCoy nor Easley were necessarily seeking a new job, but each was willing to talk and provide information to the purported recruiters.

“For decades, fossil fuel companies have lied to the public, to regulators, and to Congress about the true danger posed by their products,” said California Congressman Ro Khanna “Today’s tape only proves our knowledge that the industry’s disinformation campaign is alive and well. In the coming months, I plan to ask the CEOs of Exxon, Chevron, and other fossil fuel companies to come testify before my Environment subcommittee. We can no longer allow Exxon, or any other companies, to prevent our collective action on the climate crisis.”

A spokesman for ExxonMobil said that the allegations put to them: “contained a number of important factual misstatements that are starkly at odds with our positions on a variety of issues, including climate policy and our firm commitment to carbon pricing.”

Denial and delay

Exxon claims to support global effort to tackle climate change, but it hasn’t always.

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, the company orchestrated a multimillion-dollar disinformation campaign that manufactured doubt regarding the link between global warming and the burning of fossil fuels.

Documents that have surfaced show that Exxon knew as early as the mid-1980s, that its profit-making activities were contributing to the destruction of the Earth’s capacity to sustain life by altering the climate.

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