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How ExxonMobil's PR Machine Impacted The Climate Change Debate

Our DeSmog UK epic history series continues as ExxonMobil uses its PR power to change the public’s mind on climate change.

The basic tenet of ExxonMobil’s strategy was clear: it would use PR, not to change their image, but to change the public's mind.

Exxon’s longstanding senior environmental advisor was a large, bullish, but “brilliant”, nuclear engineer, heroically named Arthur G Randall III. He went by the name of “Randy”. 

Though Randy was nearing the end of his career, he was a powerful force within ExxonMobil’s Washington network.

This is What Happened When Oil Giants Exxon and Mobil Joined Forces

Our DeSmog UK epic history series continues with the merger between two oil giants, Exxon and Mobil.

A global superpower was created on 30th November 1998, with the $81bn merger between Exxon and Mobil.

The deal was quick on the heels of rival BP’s merger with Amoco, but the ExxonMobil deal outshone that of BP Amoco by billions of dollars.

The Moment When Global Leaders Signed The Kyoto Protocol, And How Industry Responded

Our DeSmog UK epic history series recalls the moment when leaders from around the globe agreed to limit emissions under the Kyoto Protocol.

Exxon boss, Lee Raymond's attempt to warn the developing world against signing the Kyoto Protocol – which would threaten his business – appeared to be unsuccessful.

At 4am on the 11th December 1997, the leaders of more than 150 countries meeting in Kyoto, Japan agreed – after two years of negotiations – to binding reductions on carbon emissions.

Industry-Stacked Energy Department Committee: Shale Running Dry, Let's Exploit the Arctic

A report assembled by an industry-centric US Department of Energy committee recommends the nation start exploiting the Arctic due to oil and gas shale basins running dry. 

In the just-submitted report, first obtained by the Associated Press, the DOE's National Petroleum Council — many members of which are oil and gas industry executives — concludes that oil and gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) will not last beyond the next decade or so, thus the time is ripe to raid the fragile Arctic to feed our fossil fuel addiction. 

The NPC just launched a website and executive summary of the report: Arctic Potential: Realizing the Promise of U.S. Oil and Gas Resources.

Confirming the thesis presented by the Post Carbon Institute in its two reports, “Drill Baby, Drill” and “Drilling Deeper,” the National Petroleum Council believes the shale boom does not have much more than a decade remaining.

The NPC report appears to largely gloss over the role of further fossil fuel dependence on climate change, or the potentially catastrophic consequences of an oil spill in the Arctic.

The first mention of climate change appears to refer to “concern about the future of the culture of the Arctic peoples and the environment in the face of changing climate and increased human activity,” but doesn't mention the role of fossil fuels in driving those changes. Instead, the report immediately pivots to focus on “increasing interest in the Arctic for tourist potential, and reductions in summer ice provide an increasing opportunity for marine traffic.”

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, a National Petroleum Council member, chimed in on the study in an interview with the Associated Press.  

“There will come a time when all the resources that are supplying the world's economies today are going to go in decline,” remarked Tillerson. “This is will [sic] be what's needed next. If we start today it'll take 20, 30, 40 years for those to come on.”

The National Petroleum Council also deployed the energy poverty argument, utilized most recently by coal giant Peabody Energy in its “Advanced Energy For Life” public relations campaign, to make its case for Arctic drilling as a replacement for fracking.

“But global demand for oil, which affects prices of gasoline, diesel and other fuels everywhere, is expected to rise steadily in the coming decades — even as alternative energy use blossoms — because hundreds of millions of people are rising from poverty in developing regions and buying more cars, shipping more goods, and flying in airplanes more often,” reads the report. “In order to meet that demand and keep prices from soaring, new sources of oil must be developed, the council argues.”

This Is The Man Exxon Chose To Lead Its Effort Against Climate Science

This DeSmog UK epic history post portrays Lee Raymond, the Texan captain who steered the Exxon ship against the rising tide of climate science.

In 1997, BP’s British boss, John Brown, stunned the world by endorsing the science of climate change and calling for government regulation to reduce carbon emissions. Exxon’s Lee Raymond (pictured), however, was an entirely different beast: brash, bullish and brutal.

This real life J.R. Ewing came from working class stock all the way from the Great Plains and fought his way to the top of the oil giant Exxon.

“Pipeline Nation” Short Documentary Investigates Lack Of Oversight Of “America’s Broken Industry”

In a new short documentary called “Pipeline Nation: America’s Broken Industry,” Vice News travels to Glendive, Montana, where a pipeline ruptured on January 17 of this year, spilling 50,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River and contaminating the town’s drinking supply.

This was the second oil spill in the area in the past four years. An Exxon pipeline spilled over 60,000 gallons of crude into the Yellowstone River near Billings, Montana in 2011.

The spill near Glendive involved Bakken crude, which is lighter and more volatile than heavy crude and evaporates more quickly, making it difficult to clean up.

“Our recovery of oil out of the water, it’s just… we’re not really getting much,” Paul Peronard, On-Site Coordinator for the EPA, tells Vice’s Nilo Tabrizy in the film. “Three-hundred-something barrels out of the pipeline in this immediate area, less than a couple barrels actually out of the water. So pretty much what is in the water is there and gone. And we aren’t going to recover it.”

“We never — and I’ll be clear about that — we never recover all the oil. Somebody who tells you that is telling you stories. In good conditions, you get half of the oil that hits the water.”

Global Shale Fail: Oil Majors Leaving Fracking Fields Across Europe, Asia

With some analysts predicting the global price of oil to see another drop, many oil majors have deployed their parachutes and jumped from the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) projects rapidly nose-diving across the world.

As The Wall Street Journal recently reported, the unconvetional shale oil and gas boom is still predominantly U.S.-centric, likely to remain so for years to come.

“Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC have packed up nearly all of their hydraulic fracturing wildcatting in Europe, Russia and China,” wrote The Wall Street Journal.

“Chevron halted its last European fracking operations in February when it pulled out of Romania. Shell said it is cutting world-wide shale spending by 30% in places including Turkey, Ukraine and Argentina. Exxon has pulled out of Poland and Hungary, and its German fracking operations are on hold.” 

Though the fracking boom has taken off in the U.S. like no other place on Earth, the U.S. actually possesses less than 10 percent of the world’s estimated shale reserves, according to The Journal.

Despite this resource allotment discrepency, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently revealed that only four countries in the world have produced fracked oil or gas at a commercial-scale: the United States, Canada, China and Argentina.

Global Shale Fail
Image Credit: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Was Climate Science Denialist Willie Soon Funded To Do Science Or Was It Just PR Cash From The Fossil Fuel Industry?

Willie Soon fossil fuel funding

So one of the climate science denial industry’s most celebrated scientists has been caught describing his research work as “deliverables” to his fossil fuel funders.

Dr Willie Soon, the aeronautics engineer who dabbles in public health, atmospheric science, solar physics and sea level rise, describes himself as an “independent scientist”.

More often though over the years, he is described by others as an “astrophysicist” at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, lending him credibility which most serious climate scientists would argue Soon’s science doesn’t deserve.

As one University of Michigan professor put it to the Chronicle of Higher Education: “Why is anyone even listening to him? Because he’s got ‘Harvard’ after his name. Once you take that away, who is Willie Soon? He’s nobody.”

In recent days, the Smithsonian has pointed out that even though Soon is employed as a “part time researcher at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Laboratory” they don’t actually pay him. “Dr. Soon pursues external sources to fund his research activity,” a statement said.

Soon has solicited more than $1.5 million since 2001 from fossil fuel companies and conservative foundations.

Coal electricity generator Southern Company, Exxon, Donors Trust, the Charles G. Koch Foundation and the American Petroleum Institute have been among his key funders.

Climate Denyin' Scientist Willie Soon Says 'I'm Lovin' It'...

Climate scientists tempted by the millions of dollars paid by the oil industry to researchers who happen to come up with the right conclusions have been warned – you would be better off flipping burgers.

Willie Soon, a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, has accepted cash from the oil baron Koch brothers, oil behemoth ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute – the troika of industry-funded climate denial.

The New York Times on Sunday revealed that Soon promised “deliverables” including scientific papers and Senate testimony when negotiating terms with energy companies.

But the maverick researcher claims he would have been better off working for a burger chain and is walking on his uppers…

How Tobacco Shills Inspired Climate Denial

DeSmog UK’s history series examines how the tobacco industry’s PR tactics proved inspirational for the army of climate change deniers.

Dr Fred Singer and his sceptic Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) would become an increasingly important platoon in the army assembling against climate science.

Along with the late Dr Frederick Seitz – a founder of the Marshall Institute – the SEPP would use PR tactics developed by the tobacco industry to question and undermine climate science.

Seitz, for example, accused the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of producing scientific summaries “exaggerating risk… solely – we suspect – to satisfy an ideological objective of aggressively constraining the use of energy.”

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