Exxon has admitted - for the first time - that the climate deniers it funds are causing problems for action on climate change.
This is a first for the company which has spent, since 1998, $23 million funding the climate denial industry.
And it's official - Exxon made this statement in this year's Corporate Citizenship Report, released in time for its shareholder meeting.
The statement reads:
"in 2008 we will distcontinue contributions to several public policy interest groups whose position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion on how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner." (page 41 under "public policy research contributions."
"Could divert attention"? We award Exxon a special prize for the Understatement of the Year. The denial industry can be held responsible for the US's failure to act on climate. And Exxon has been at the heart of it for more than a decade.
So which groups is Exxon dropping? According to Reuters, gone from the funding list in 2008 are the George C Marshall Institute, the Committe for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), Frontiers of Freedom... and others.
These groups are what you might call the "engine room" of the climate denial industry.
But even Exxon's walking away from them now.
The company started dropping groups in 2006, with the Competitive Enterprise Institute being the first to go. Last year, it dumped the Heartland Institute, which organised the biggest denial conference for a long time, in New York in March and has been running a slightly ridiculous campaign against Al Gore.
The other groups were all co-sponsors of the Heartland conference which concluded, surprisingly enough, that global warming isn't happening.
We note that this announcement didn't come from the usual spokesman from Exxon, Ken Cohen, who chairs the company's funding committe, but from a new person. Clearly the new CEO Rex Tillerson is trying to shift his company from the poisoned chalice left to him by former CEO and arch denialist, Lee Raymond.
But is cutting nine groups getting the job done?
In short, no. From the 2007 Worldwide Giving Report, posted on Exxon's website on Friday, we can see that Exxon funded a total of 37 global warming denial groups, to the tune of nearly $2 million, which is pretty similar to 2006. Even cutting nine of them means the company is still funding 28 groups engaged in climate denial.
Tillerson needs to make a much wider sweep if he really wants to shake off Raymond's legacy - he has started, but we think he should apologise to the global community for the harm his company has caused.
1998 communications strategy groups finally seen off
The latest round of Exxon cuts means an end to the funding of the organisations who gathered together in 1998 to plot a communications strategy designed to foster public scepticism of climate science and undermine the Kyoto treaty.
The plan was drawn up by a small cabal of groups and companies, including Exxon, Chevron and the big energy provider, the Southern Company, and Fred Singer's outfit, SEPP. In there were also Frontiers of Freedom and the Marshall Institute, who have both enjoyed Exxon funding ever since.
The memo stated that "Victory will be achieved when:
... average citizens "understand" (recognise) uncertainties in climate science; recognition of uncertainties become part of conventional wisdom;
..."Those promoting the Kyoto Treaty on the basis of extant science appear out of touch with reality."
Well, sorry guys, while you may have achieved a certain level of climate scepticism, the IPCC's latest report is absolutely clear on the climate science - and governments are acting on it.
Will this stop the denial industry?
Well, no. We note that Walt Buchholtz, Exxon's former funding man, left the company and went to work at Heartland for a year. No doubt he helped set up Heartland's new sources of funding from other members of the business community.
There's still a ways to go, but it's a start. When companies like Exxon start questioning this lot, there's not a lot of people who will continue to support them.
A clear window into what happened to our democracy could be seen today as the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing, “Exploring the Skyrocketing Price of Oil,” with executives from BP, Shell, Chevron, Conoco Phillips and ExxonMobil. I found it on C-Span. Some of the highlights:
None of the executives could remember how much they make, although most admitted it was in excess on 2 million dollars. They all did their best to look somber about the record high prices of oil and then went on to blame China, OPEC (remember that old boogeyman?) and most importantly, lack of access to new places to drill for oil to help make America energy independent. These guys are paid enormous amounts of money to pretend they care about the pain the public feels when they tighten the screws on us. Congress throws some theatrically tough questions and act concerned, although they don’t pay for the gas for their own limos. You and I do. So its sort of like Broadway except it seems the makeup artists use brooms.
J. Stephen Simon, the Senior VP of ExxonMobil went through a series of arguments showing how dramatically the oil industry margins have been reduced. By the end of his explanation it seemed that ExxonMobil was profitless, although thanks to public records we know that their profits were a record 40 billion dollars last year and are on pace to crush that record this year. He spoke of working together to strengthen American competitiveness, advised us not to worry about the current “upcycle” (that was his euphemism for the sky high gasoline prices) and all the while whining about taxes.
All the executives stated directly or implied that the oil price crisis could be alleviated by giving them access to the last wild places where oil is still to be found in America: the Rocky Mountain Front Range, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and more coastal drilling. If your grandmother had oil in her teeth they’d want those too. The fact is that these sources take years to explore, destroy wild areas permanently and would only reduce the price of oil marginally. But they would add handsomely to the oil companies’ profits. It’s the perfect argument for the oil companies: they want more of the same, record profits, easy access to our lands and waters, continued subsidies of about 40 billion dollars a year for oil and gas (easy to remember as it is the same as ExxonMobil’s 2007 profits – and both are on track to go up in 2008), and blame the lack of access on the environmentalists.
The fact is I am not against oil prices going up. That is what is going to make us use less. If oil prices were being driven up by a federal system that put a cap on the carbon that these and other companies bring into the economy and force them to buy credits to emit permitted amounts, the revenue from the credits would then go back to Americans, all Americans to help offset the higher energy costs – not drive profits higher.
The retiring head of Shell had a fun way to try and downplay the record profits. He mumbled out something about the profits they are reporting being very large in absolute numbers but you have to look at the segments of our business, the upstream something or another, historic age of oilfields, marginal costs…
I started to feel sorry for these guys, I felt less resentful of the 40 billion dollars in subsidies that we give these guys each year who can’t remember how many millions of dollars they are paid. Heck, I felt like running down to the Hill and bringing them flowers. After all, they got some pretty tough questions from the Senators. To make matters worse, a protest kicked in, I could hear the voices in the back of the room while watching on my computer screen the faces of the witnesses as they heard somebody demanding that we separate oil and state Dammed hippies insisting that the politicians stop taking campaign donations from the executives that they are supposed to protect Americans from, yeah, and wreck the whole game.
Pretty nuts… like enough to make you wanna take the bus.
In the interview, Milloy talks about his current anti-corporate responsibility campaign against corporations who are better than the laggards at Exxon on global warming policy- which would be most of them at this point...Milloy is targetting General Electric, Alcoa, Fe-Ex and other movers to the left of Exxon on the climate consciousness continuum.
We at ExxonSecrets, remember that Exxon seeded Milloy's Free Enterprise Action Fund in 2003 with a $50,000 grant for "Research" to the Free Enterprise Action Institute, an organization that exists nowhere in the world except in Milloy's mind and on Exxon's World Giving Report documents. Exxon followed this with a $70,000 grant in 2005 to the Free Enterprise Education Institute for "Corporate Social Responsibility and Climate Change" though this annotation did not appear in the public Exxon World Giving Report, only in Exxon's tax forms to the IRS...hmmm but remember that Exxon dropped Milloy in 2006...so sad
Also of interest is the leading stock holding of Free Enterprise Action Fund is none other than Exxon at over 4% of stock held.
We also note that Milloy was scoffed at during a recent Wall St Journal green forum for trashing corporate leaders on climate policy. Hopefully corporations will brush Milloy aside at their annual meetings this year, as you would an annoying gnat...
Ahhhh, another good news for Exxon-bad news for the rest of us day...
The economy in shambles, food prices skyrocketing, gas prices at all time highs and going higher...at least Exxon is smiling.
Exxon's quarterly earnings report today turned out another record breaker - with $10.89 Billion, which works out to over $120 million a day and over $5 million an hour.
and what is Exxon spending all this loot on?
they tell us, don't worry they are exploring for more oil to sell to us, to make more record profits... what me worry?
oh, and they have been buying back their own stock at a record clip...they repurchased $8 billion in shares in the 1st quarter of 2008.
The quarterly profits announcement brought out the predictable calls for "windfall profits tax". Even Barack Obama took a shot at Exxon's profits in a recent TV Ad
But then it turned up that Obama, Clinton and McCain have all gotten money from Exxon employees during the '08 election cycle, and ironically, Obama has seen the most!
If you want to see if your Congressperson has recieved Exxon cash go here
So far 85% has gone to Republicans...go figure.