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“Dawn Of Justice”: What Exxon Mobil Knew About Possible Consequences Of Climate Change And When Did They Know It

I hope Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were paying close attention to the press conference New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman held with former Vice President Al Gore on Tuesday:

More government officials are asking what Exxon Mobil knew about climate change.

Attorneys general from Massachusetts and the Virgin Islands announced Tuesday that they would join Eric T. Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general, in his investigation into whether Exxon Mobil lied in decades past to investors and the public about the threat of climate change.

The additional participation was announced during a news conference at Mr. Schneiderman’s offices in Lower Manhattan announcing support from 15 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands for the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

Attorneys general from Vermont, Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia, Connecticut and the Virgin Islands, as well as former Vice President Al Gore, attended the event.

While none of the other officials present, aside from Maura Healey of Massachusetts and Claude Walker of the Virgin Islands, announced inquiries of their own, Mr. Schneiderman said, “not every investigation gets announced at the outset.”

Mr. Schneiderman began his investigation in November. His staff is looking at whether statements the company made to investors about climate risks — some as recently as last year — conflicted with the company’s own scientific research.

Part of that inquiry includes the company’s funding, for at least a decade, of outside groups that worked to dispute climate science, even as its in-house scientists were describing the possible consequences of climate change, along with the areas of uncertainty.

If either Clinton or Sanders becomes the 45th President of the United States, they will face intense pressure from climate activists to nominate an attorney general willing to hold ExxonMobil and other major fossil fuel companies legally accountable for their efforts to deceive the American public and distort the American political process in an effort to thwart federal efforts to combat carbon pollution–and they must respond to this call for justice. As Gore noted at the press conference, what ExxonMobil did in the late-1980s and beyond is indistinguishable from what the tobacco industry did for decades in an effort to protect their profits at the expense of the public.

Holding ExxonMobil legally accountable for its amoral actions in the late-1980s and beyond would seem to be a no-brainer. That’s why it’s so odd to see the acclaimed science blogger David Appell lashing out against the calls to bring ExxonMobil to justice, using a variation of the “Leonardo DiCaprio flies private jets, so he’s a hypocrite!” argument you often hear from the anti-science right. Appell seems to think that climate activists just want revenge on ExxonMobil. Future generations will want revenge, of course, but today’s activists just want accountability.

Appell is wrong. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey noted that “…her office had a moral obligation to act” on ExxonMobil’s extremism. The next US Attorney General will have a moral obligation to act as well. Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders, take note–and take heed.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 3, 2016

April 4, 2016 Posted by | Big Oil, Climate Change, Exxon Mobil, U. S. Attorney General | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Indelicate Demands Of Profit”: Exxon’s Weapons Of Mass Confusion On Climate Change

There is a constant flow of headlines these days confirming the mess we’ve made: “Looks Like Rain Again. And Again”; “Alaska Will Keep Melting”; “Climate Change a Worry to Central Bankers, Too”; “Warning on Climate Risk: Worst to Come.”

This is far from a natural phenomenon. A handful of corporate interests are causing these catastrophes. Oil, coal, auto and a few other industrial powers have profited for decades by spewing fossil fuel contaminants into the world’s atmosphere.

Some experts were speaking out about this mess nearly 40 years ago:

“There is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” wrote James Black in 1978.

“Over the past several years, a clear scientific consensus has emerged,” said Roger Cohen in September 1982. “There is unanimous agreement in the scientific community that a temperature increase of this magnitude would bring about significant changes in the Earth’s climate, including rainfall distribution and alterations in the biosphere.”

The significance of these early calls to action is that they came from Exxon!

Inside Climate News revealed in an investigative series released this fall that the oil superpower (now infamous for its relentless campaign of lies to discredit climate science) was briefly a paragon of scientific integrity. From 1978 through the ’80s the corporation’s research headquarters were a buzzing hive of farsighted inquiry into the “greenhouse effect,” as the process of climate change was then called.

But in 1988, the elegant space inhabited by principle was suddenly invaded by the indelicate demands of profit. Dr. James Hansen, NASA’s renowned climate expert, testified to Congress that fossil pollution of Earth’s atmosphere had already surpassed the crisis point. “Global warming has begun,” Hanson concluded.

Then the United Nations’ intergovernmental panel on climate change issued an authoritative study in 1990 concluding that the warming was happening and the cause was emissions from fossil fuels.

With that, Exxon dismantled and defunded its research team. Ever since, it’s been the shameful, self-serving leader of a voodoo “science” campaign to keep the world hooked on the fossil fuels that provide its profits.

Their strategy was to create an incessant noise machine, fueled with hundreds of millions of industry dollars, to spread the false narrative that scientists are “uncertain” about climate change. In a confidential 1998 memo, ExxonMobil’s senior environmental lobbyist stated the Orwellian goal of this corporate campaign: “Victory will be achieved when … average citizens ‘understand’ uncertainties in climate science,” and when “recognition of uncertainty becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’”

Their many tactics included: forming a lobbying combine in 1989 to sow doubt among public officials about the need for government action; placing a very costly, decade-long series of essays in newspapers denigrating the very scientists it previously nurtured and the science reports that it published; and trying to get the government’s chief global warming official to decry the uncertainty of climate research (then, when he refused, got the incoming Bush-Cheney regime to fire him). They also made their CEOs into hucksters of bunkum, with such lines as “the earth is cooler today than it was 20 years ago” and “it is highly unlikely that the temperature in the middle of next century will be significantly affected whether policies are enacted now or 20 years from now” and “what if everything we do, it turns out that our (climate) models are lousy, and we don’t get the (rising temperatures) we predict?”

If these denials of reality sound familiar, that’s because they’re exactly the same ones we’re now hearing from such Einsteins as The Donald (who recently tweeted, “I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax”), The Cruzer (who claimed that climate change is a liberal plot for “massive government control of the economy … and every aspect of our lives”) and Jeb (who said, “It’s convoluted. And for the people to say the science is decided on this is just really arrogant”).

The deniers are not only on the wrong side of science and history, but also on the wrong side of most voters. A New York Times poll taken last January found that only 13 percent of our people (and only 24 percent of Repubs) said they would be more likely to vote for 2016 presidential candidates who contend that climate change is a hoax and America should keep burning oil and coal. A September poll by three GOP firms found that 56 percent of Republicans agree that the climate is changing and 72 percent support accelerating the use of renewable fuels.

The real power, and our great hope, is in the People’s rebellion: marches, civil disobedience, trainings, teach-ins and other actions to pressure leaders to put people and the planet over corporate profiteering, while also raising global public awareness about the crucial need to get off of fossil fuels and into renewable energy. As 350.org puts it, “Politicians aren’t the only ones with power.” So the coalition will be in the global streets, on the Internet, in schools, churches and all other available forums, to rally you and me to save ourselves.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, December 16, 2015

December 24, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Exxon Mobil, Global Warming | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Why Did Christie Settle With Exxon?”: At This Moment In History, Good Policy And Good Politics Are Not Often Synonymous

Last week, Republican governor Chris Christie’s administration settled New Jersey’s long-standing environmental lawsuit against ExxonMobil Corp. for pennies on the dollar. For a decade, the state had been seeking $8.9 billion in damages for pollution at two refineries in the northern part of the state, and yet Christie’s top officials abruptly proposed closing the case for just $225 million.

In the aftermath, as environmentalists express outrage and legislators move to block the settlement, the question on many observers’ minds has been simple: Why did Christie settle?

One possible answer is just as simple: money — more specifically, campaign cash.

According to federal records, ExxonMobil has donated more than $1.9 million to the Republican Governors Association since Christie’s first run for governor in 2009. That includes $279,000 during Christie’s election and re-election races, and also another half-million when he chaired the organization in 2014. Additionally, one of Exxon’s law firms in the New Jersey case also donated $30,000 to the RGA since 2013.

Another possible answer could be relationships.

Christie’s first attorney general worked for Exxon for seven years. His deputy chief of staff in 2014 left the governor’s office for a job with Exxon’s lobbying firm in Trenton. And weeks before the settlement was announced, one of his cabinet secretaries took a job with Exxon’s New Jersey law firm.

Still another possible answer about why Christie settled the Exxon case could be found in a little-noticed provision his administration slipped into the annual budget in 2014.

The language in question empowers the governor to divert money obtained from environmental litigation away from pollution cleanup programs and into the state’s general fund, where it can be used to fill budget gaps or finance corporate subsidies. The provision explicitly takes precedence over other state laws designed to direct proceeds from environmental lawsuits into New Jersey’s environmental protection programs.

Because the provision is temporary, remaining in force only until a new budget is enacted, critics say that it effectively encourages Christie’s administration to settle cases as quickly as possible to free up cash that the governor can then tap however he sees fit. The most expedient way to accelerate a settlement is to lessen the fines sought from the company facing the lawsuit.

“This is money that rightfully belongs to the people of New Jersey to make up for the injury to the environment,” said Jeffrey Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Instead, the governor is diverting it for other purposes. It’s a twofer: Reduced settlements help the oil companies before Christie’s presidential campaign, and Christie can quickly get more money for the record amounts of corporate subsidies he is handing out.”

So which answer is correct? Is the settlement a product of campaign cash, relationships or budget machinations? It is hard to say for certain, but in all likelihood it is probably a little bit of all three — plus some presidential campaign calculation sprinkled in.

In politics, as rare as it is to see a policy decision made on the substantive merits of an issue, it is even rarer that a decision is only about one thing. Most often, decisions represent a mixture of motivations. In agreeing to such a small settlement in the Exxon case, Christie placates his politically connected colleagues and gets himself some extra cash to spend on his budget’s new tax cuts. He also gives a gift to an oil industry donor just as he starts raising money for a 2016 White House bid.

Sure, the settlement may not be great policy, but it may be shrewd short-term politics. That divergence is hardly surprising — at this moment in history, good policy and good politics are not often synonymous.

 

By: David Sirota, a Senior Writer at The International Business Times; The National Memo, March 13, 2015

March 18, 2015 Posted by | Big Oil, Chris Christie, Exxon Mobil | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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