Oil companies have been trying to convince us that they are as interested in addressing global warming as anybody else. They’ve even asked us to be mindful of our impact on the environment because we’re in this together.
Well, it turns out that ExxonMobil never really supported a carbon tax aimed at addressing climate change, according to a report from the Guardian. The company knew that supporting the tax was a good PR stunt, though, and that’s good for business.
It’s not surprising that an oil company like Exxon reportedly lied about its policies to make itself look better, but it’s the kind of underhanded strategy that we can only suspect or speculate about. The company wouldn’t openly admit that supporting a carbon tax was just a PR talking point while it work to undermine real change behind the scenes, right?
No, the company wouldn’t, but two of its lobbyists might when speaking to an undercover Greenpeace reporter, per the report from the Guardian:
Lobbyists for ExxonMobil have described the oil giant’s backing for a carbon tax as a public relations ploy intended to stall more serious measures to combat the climate crisis.
Two senior lobbyists based in Washington told an undercover reporter for Unearthed, the investigative journalism branch of Greenpeace, that they worked to undermine Joe Biden’s plans to limit greenhouse emissions and other environmental measures in his infrastructure bill.
Yikes. It then gets worse as the report goes on:
One of the lobbyists also admitted that Exxon “aggressively” fought against climate science and funded shadow groups to deny global heating.
Keith McCoy, a senior director in Exxon’s Washington government affairs team, was recorded on video in May saying that the company backs a carbon tax “as an easy talking point” and an “advocacy tool” because “there is not an appetite for a carbon tax” and that Republican legislators who oppose taxes in principle will never let it happen.
Later, McCoy reiterates the point: “Carbon tax is not going to happen.”
Oil companies being dishonest about climate change is not surprising or unique, but to hear it so brazenly and cynically laid out is a bit jaw-dropping considering what’s at stake.
The undercover reporters posed as consultants for another client, and this is why the lobbyists were so...chatty, as the report details:
...reporters posed as recruitment consultants looking to hire a Washington lobbyist for a major client and approached McCoy and Exxon’s former White House lobbyist, Dan Easley, who left the company at the end of the Trump administration.
In a meeting over Zoom, McCoy admitted that Exxon funded “shadow groups” that worked to misrepresent and deny climate science in order to sow doubt and stall regulation.
“Did we aggressively fight against some of the science? Yes,” he said. “Did we join some of these shadow groups to work against some of the early efforts? Yes that’s true. But there’s nothing illegal about that. We were looking out for our investments, we were looking out for shareholders.”
As you can expect, the statements from the lobbyists have been refuted by the company’s chairman and CEO, Darren Woods, who told the Guardian the following:
“Comments made by the individuals in no way represent the company’s position on a variety of issues, including climate policy and our firm commitment that carbon pricing is important to addressing climate change.
“We condemn the statements and are deeply apologetic for them, including comments regarding interactions with elected officials. They are entirely inconsistent with the way we expect our people to conduct themselves. We were shocked by these interviews and stand by our commitments to working on finding solutions to climate change.”
Woods shared that in a written statement, presumably, after making the recipient pinky-promise that they were not undercover Greenpeace reporters. Not that it would do any good at this point.