After my previous post, on the Exxon/Mobil boycott, it occurred to me that there may be folks out there unaware of the reasons for this boycott. That is the "exxpose" part. One of the commenters on my previous post says the following:
Yes, they will change if you hit them financially in a fatal manner as you seem to wish. They will discontinue (in this case) the supply of affordable energy products to the masses, leaving their wares only available to the evil rich, causing much suffering for those of limited or modest means.
Imagine characterising Exxon/Mobil as a elimosnary institution, dispensing the supply of "affordable energy products to the masses." In this vision Exxon is keeping those of "limited or modest means" from unnecessary suffering. The reality of Exxon is so utterly different from this St. Vincent de Paul picture, and I'd like to familiarize you with some aspects of that difference. Mother Jones magazine has been running a series for some time now called "As The World Burns." It's on... what else? Yes! Global warming. It's a great series, and I had been planning a post referencing it a while back. I didn't do it because it seemed to me that perhaps people were either indifferent or sick and tired of reading about this topic.
Now I see it's high time indeed to refer to "As The World Burns." Because several articles in it bear large testimony to what Exxon is doing to convince "the masses" (and the administration along with them) that climate catastrophe is a figment of evil liberal scientists' imaginations. You can go to "Put a Tiger in Your Think Tank" for a chart of the institutions being funded by Exxon, and what those groups are doing with the funds. Many of the groups, think tanks, institutes, quasi-journalistic sites, even religious groups, have links. You can go check them out, see what they're up to yourself.
Chris Mooney is one of my favorite environmental/political writers; his pieces are always well-researched, well-written and very comprehensive. He has just such a piece in the ATWB series on MoJo, called "Some Like It Hot." It begins with a story about Michael Crichton (State of Fear) talking to a gathering of "sharply dressed policy wonks" in the Wohlstetter Conference Center of the American Enterprise Institute (check your Think Tank chart, this institute was the recipient of $960,000 from Exxon/Mobil). Disinterested public policy researchers? Mooney thinks not:
There is overwhelming scientific consensus that greenhouse gases emitted by human activity are causing global average temperatures to rise. Conservative think tanks are trying to undermine this conclusion with a disinformation campaign employing "reports" designed to look like a counterbalance to peer-reviewed studies, skeptic propaganda masquerading as journalism, and events like the AEI luncheon that Crichton addressed. The think tanks provide both intellectual cover for those who reject what the best science currently tells us, and ammunition for conservative policymakers like Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, who calls global warming "a hoax."
The article informs not only on think tanks but on the lobbying bought and paid for by Exxon in this lengthy campaign to discredit the science of global warming:
EXXONMOBIL'S FUNDING OF THINK TANKS hardly compares with its lobbying expenditures - $55 million over the past six years, according to the Center for Public Integrity. And neither figure takes much of a bite out of the company's netearnings-$25.3 billion last year. Nevertheless, "ideas lobbying" can have a powerful public policy effect.
Consider attacks by friends of ExxonMobil on the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment(ACIA). A landmark international study that combined the work of some 300 scientists, the ACIA, released last November, had been four years in the making. Commissioned by the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum that includes the United States, the study warned that the Arctic is warming "at almost twice the rate as that of the rest of the world," and that early impacts of climate change, such as melting sea ice and glaciers, are already apparent and "will drastically shrink marine habitat for polar bears, ice-inhabiting seals, and some seabirds, pushing some species toward extinction." Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) was so troubled by the report that he called for a Senate hearing.
Included in the article is information about Exxon's deep instrinsic ties with the current administration - information which should not surprise any of us who live in reality.
PERHAPS THE MOST SURPRISING aspect of ExxonMobil's support of the think tanks waging the disinformation campaign is that, given its close ties to the Bush administration (which cited "incomplete" science as justification to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol), it's hard to see why the company would even need such pseudoscientific cover. In 1998, Dick Cheney, then CEO of Halliburton, signed a letter to the Clinton administration challenging its approach to Kyoto. Less than three weeks after Cheney assumed the vice presidency, he met with ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond for a half-hour. Officials of the corporation also met with Cheney's notorious energy task force.
ExxonMobil's connections to the current administration go much deeper, filtering down into lower but crucially important tiers of policymaking. For example, the memo forwarded by Randy Randol recommended that Harlan Watson, a Republican staffer with the House Committee on Science, help the United States' diplomatic efforts regarding climate change. Watson is now the State Department's "senior climate negotiator." Similarly, the Bush administration appointed former American Petroleum Institute attorney Philip Cooney - who headed the institute's "climate team" and opposed the Kyoto Protocol - as chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. In June 2003 the New York Times reported that the CEQ had watered down an Environmental Protection Agency report's discussion of climate change, leading EPA scientists to charge that the document "no longer accurately represents scientific consensus." (marigolds2 notes that Cooney has now left the White House to work for....wait for it....EXXON!)
"Some Like it Hot" is a fairly long article, but you may find yourself compelled to read every word. And I have to hope it will convince more readers to destroy their E/M cards, sell any of their stock they own, and pass along this campaign to expose and discredit Exxon.
(Chris Mooney is a senior correspondent for the American Prospect, where he helped create the popular blog Tapped. His writing focuses on the intersection of science and politics, and his first book, The Republican War on Science, will be published in September.)