The Heat Is Online

ExxonMobil Acknowledges Fact -- With Fingers Crossed Behind Its Back (Nov. 20020


ExxonMobil deserves a measure of congratulations for finally acknowledging what has long been accepted by more than 2,000 scientists, some 160 nations and virtually every other oil company in the world.

In November, ExxonMobil took a step toward acknowledging the reality of climate change and softening its long-standing campaign of disinformation against mainstream science.

On Nov. 21, 2002,the world's biggest oil company announced a grant of $100 million over 10 years to Stanford University to support research on "low-emissions" technologies and carbon sequestration technologies to address climate change.

But ExxonMobil persists in misleading the public.

In its op-ed page ad in The New York Times of November 22, 2002, ExxonMobil declares:

"On an overall basis, many of today's suggested alternative energy approaches are not as energy efficient, environmentally beneficial or economic as competing fossil fuels. They are often sustained only through special advantages and government subsidies. This is not a desirable basis for public policy or the provision of energy." (Italics added).


Currently ExxonMobil benefits from federal subsidies of more than $20 billion a year for oil, natural gas and coal. That figure does not include an estimated additional $15 billion to protect oil supplies from the Middle East.

Under President Bush's plan, by contrast, renewable technologies receive about $920 million a year for 5 years in federal subsidies.

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In terms of special advantages (other than subsidies) from the government, the renewable energy lobby is virtually invisible.

By contrast, ExxonMobil is a chief architect of the President's climate policy.

ExxonMobil met on numerous occasions with Vice President Cheney and his staff in prepararation of the Administration's Energy Plan.

ExxonMobi'ls memo the Bush White House led to the ouster of Dr. Robert Watson as head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

ExxonMobil hand-picked the Bush Administration's new climate negotiator who promptly announced the U.S. will not engage the Kyoto process for at least 10 years.

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On renewable technologies:

ExxonMobil said its grant was due to the fact that renewable technologies are currently inadequate to meet human needs. The 10-year, $100 million grant amounts to one-tenth of one percent of the money ExxonMobil will spend on oil exploration in the next decade. It amounts to about 40 percent of the salary of its CEO.

As ExxonMobil was declaring renewables inadequte, Toyota announced it will put hydrogen-powered fuel-cell cars on the streets of Tokyo by Dec. 2.

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On corporate environmental performance:

On its web page, ExxonMobil boasts that it has cut emissions in its internal operations by 35 percent over 25 years -- less than 2 percent per year, during a period in which much more efficient capital equipment became available.

By contrast, British Petroleum announced a plan in 1999 to reduce its internal emissions by 10 percent below 1990 levels -- double the Kyoto targets -- within 10 years. In 2002, BP announced it met its goal eight years ahead of its own deadline.

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On climate science:

ExxonMobil has consistently called for more research into climate science before enacting new policies. As a consequence, the Bush Administration is eliminating the primary federal climate research agency (The U.S. Global Change Research Program) and, instead, is launching a new four-year program to study uncertainties in climate science.

Said ExxonMobil's CEO Lee Raymond: "The mainstream of some so-called environmentalists or politically correct Europeans isn't the mainstream of all scientists or the White House. The world has been a lot warmer than it is now and it didn't have anything to do with carbon dioxide."

So much for 150 years of scientific research into the heat-trapping qualities of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

By contrast, more than 2,000 scientists from 100 countries reporting to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in what is the largest and most rigorously peer-reviewed scientific collaboration in history found in 1995 that human beings are changing the climate by our burning of fossil fuels.

In 2001, the IPCC found:

    • climate change is occurring much more rapidly than scientists anticipated
    • temperatures in this century could rise by as much as 10.4 degrees F.
    • as impending climate impacts occur, "most of earth's people will be losers."

On balance, ExxonMobil's change of posture is a welcome step. If it is an indicator of future corporate policy, ExxonMobil could become a central engine of positive change for the world.

But if, as many climate activists worry, ExxonMobil's latest initiative is simply a prolonged stall to avoid dealing with the climate crisis, it will soon be hard pressed to prove that its corporate behavior does not constitute a crime against humanity.