Exxon's Greenwash

ExxonMobil recently launched a new ad campaign that is a significant flip-flop from their years of denial that climate change is not a problem. Perhaps this as good time as any to review some of Exxon's past conduct around climate change.

ExxonMobil has provided $23 million to the "climate denial industry" since 1998. They were implicated by the Union of Concerned scientists of funding a Big Tobacco-style PR campaign to misinform the public on climate science.

Exxon's conduct was so appalling that in 2006, the Royal Society in the UK asked in writing that the energy giant stop funding climate change deniers.

Greenpeace released a leaked email in 2003 alleging that the Exxon-supported Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) was colluding with White House to discredit the EPA's efforts to deal with climate change.

Specifically, this email indicated that someone in the White House had contacted the CEI to ask for "help". Myron Ebell of the CEI suggested in this memo that they might sue the EPA and call for the resignation of then EPA Chief Christie Whitman. The CEI has received over $2 million in funding from ExxonMobil since 1998.

In 2007, the Exxon-funded Amercian Enterprise Institute (AEI) offered scientists and economists $10,000 each to undermine the findings of the latest IPCC report. AEI asked for "articles that emphasize the shortcomings" of the IPCC report, which "is widely regarded as the most comprehensive review yet of climate change science."

Leading sciensts were not amused. "It's a desperate attempt by an organisation who wants to distort science for their own political aims," said David Viner of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. Former head of Exxon Mobil Lee Raymond remains vice-chairman of AEI's board of trustees.

The energy giant finally stopped shoveling money to a number of the most odious climate change deniers and think tanks in 2007.

Of course Exxon can afford to spread a little money around. In the first three months of this year, they raked in a staggering $10.89 billion in profit. This is second highest quarterly profit in US corporate history – second only to the $11.66 billion Exxon earned in the previous quarter.

As for their record on renewables, Exxon shamefully lags far behind other energy companies. Shell Oil has invested over $1 billion in renewable energy technologies since 2000. BP, is now known as "beyond petroleum", and has invested over $1.5 billion in renewable energy, and is slated to spend another $8 billion over the next decade.

And Exxon? They have chosen to invest less that 4% of that amount - $300 million over the next ten years researching potential energy sources – many not related to renewables. Compare that to the $47 billion they spent between 2003 and 2006 developing dirty fuels such as oil and gas.

As for their new ad campaign, we at Desmog Blog can only look on with amusement as the company that has consistently apposed progress or even discussion about climate change, attempts to slip into a new public persona with all the dignity of an elephant trying to slip into a bikini.

This was published on Desmog Blog on June 13, 2008

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