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Exxposing ExxonMobil's Agenda: Manipulating Politics and the Public

Ever wonder why the U.S. has done so little to address global warming and America’s dependence on oil? Using the playbook of the tobacco industry, ExxonMobil has waged a multi-million dollar disinformation campaign since the 1990s to deceive the public and the media about global warming. Despite overwhelming evidence and agreement of 2,500 scientists with the world’s foremost authority, the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), ExxonMobil insists it will “stay the course” of denying the reality and urgency of global warming. Illustrated below are snapshots of ExxonMobil’s efforts to keep America addicted to oil.

  • ExxonMobil has spent $17-$23 million since 1998 to fund over 40 organizations a year that seek to undermine the science on global warming. 1
  • In reference to the science on global warming and ExxonMobil’s funding of ‘global warming skeptics’, CEO Rex Tillerson says that the term scientific consensus is an “oxymoron” and that ExxonMobil is simply taking part in the “debate” about global warming. 2
  • “At a minimum, there’s an enormous amount of uncertainty around this whole question [of global warming].” – ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, 2006. 3
  • According to ExxonMobil, the U.S. should stop trying to become energy independent. Hoping to end foreign oil imports is not only a bad idea, but also impossible. 4
  • ExxonMobil has worked intimately to craft the Bush administration’s global warming policies from the beginning. In 2001, ExxonMobil was the only oil company to meet with the State Department to discuss the Kyoto Protocol, the same year the U.S. withdrew from the international treaty. 5
  • The White House thanked ExxonMobil for its "active involvement" in crafting U.S. global warming policy, noting that the White House considers ExxonMobil "among the companies most actively and prominently opposed to binding approaches [like Kyoto] to cut greenhouse gas emissions." 6
  • In June 2005, ExxonMobil hired Philip Cooney, and a former lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, one week following his resignation as Chief of Staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality after it was revealed that he had erroneously edited government reports on global warming to reflect the oil industry's position. 7
  • In a confidential memo to the White House, ExxonMobil requested that the administration dismiss the respected atmospheric scientist Dr. Robert Watson as chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Shortly after, the Bush administration opposed Dr. Watson's appointment as IPCC chair for a second term. The same memo recommended that Harlan Watson (no relation), a Republican staffer with the House Committee on Science, be included in U.S. diplomatic efforts on global warming. Harlan Watson is now the State Department’s senior climate negotiator. 8
  • ExxonMobil is an industry leader when it comes to making exorbitant political campaign contributions. In the 2004 election cycle, ExxonMobil spent $935,016 - more than any other company in the oil and gas industry. In the 2000 election, ExxonMobil spent almost $1.4 million in political contributions, second only to the Enron Corporation. 9
  • ExxonMobil has spent almost $67 million on lobbyists since 2000, and typically ranks among the top two every year out of the entire oil and gas industry. In 2004 alone, ExxonMobil spent $7.7 million on lobbyists – around 15% of the industry total. 10
  • ExxonMobil hired 13 lobby firms and employed 105 lobbyists, many of whom formerly worked for the federal government, to push its agenda on Capitol Hill from 1998-2004.11
  • ExxonMobil is the only oil giant remaining in Arctic Power, the single-issue lobby group dedicated to opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. All the other major oil companies pulled out under pressure from the public and shareholders. 12
  • ExxonMobil continues to fight the $4.5 billion court-ordered punitive damages awarded in 1994 to 33,000 commercial fishermen, Alaskan Natives, and others injured by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. So far 6,000 plaintiffs have died awaiting compensation. 13
  • ExxonMobil is responsible for an estimated 20.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide - about five percent of the world's total carbon dioxide emissions. 14
  • ExxonMobil has consistently dismissed votes by its shareholders calling on the company to set greenhouse gas reduction targets. In 2005, a record 28.3% of shareholders, holding 1.5 billion shares with a market value of $83.8 billion or about 20.7% of ExxonMobil's total worth at the time, voted in vain for just such a resolution. 15
An Historical Perspective:
  • Exxon and Mobil were prominent members of the Global Climate Coalition, an industry group formed to stop the international regulation of global warming pollution. BP was the first to break from the group after it declared that global warming was a real threat. Shell, Texaco, Ford, General Motors, and DaimlerChrysler followed suit shortly thereafter. ExxonMobil remained until the bitter end when the GCC disbanded in 2002.16
  • Internal documents reveal that ExxonMobil was integral in the planning of a $6 million public relations campaign by the American Petroleum Institute in 1998 explicitly designed to instill doubt into the minds of the public and policy makers about global warming science. 17
  • ExxonMobil heavily publicized a fake petition supposedly signed by 17,000 “scientists” that dismissed the scientific consensus on global warming. The memo was made to appear as if it was endorsed by the National Academy Sciences (NAS), though it included “signatures” from cartoon and television sitcom characters. The NAS subsequently issued an extraordinary statement dismissing the fraudulent effort. 18

For more truth, see Fact Sheets and Reports and Research

1 Smoke, Mirrors & Hot Air: How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco's Tactics to Manufacture Uncertainty on Climate Change, Union of Concerned Scientists, January 2007. Research by Greenpeace USA calculated nearly $23 million. Both are correct, depending on the criteria used. See also, ExxonMobil’s Continued Funding of Global Warming Denial Industry, Geenpeace USA, May 2006. 
2 Steven Mufson, “ExxonMobil Shareholders Defy Board,” The Washington Post, May 31, 2006.
3 Jeffrey Ball, “Prototype of Texas Oilman,” The Wall Street Journal. March 8, 2006; Page B1.
4 “Exxon: America will always rely on foreign oil,” Reuters, Feb 7, 2006.
5 Documents received from State Department pursuant to FOIA request, accessed June 30, 2005 atGreenpeace.org.
6 John Vidal, "Revealed: how oil giant influenced Bush," The Guardian (UK), June 8, 2005.
7 Andrew Revkin, "Former Bush Aide Who Edited Reports Is Hired by Exxon," The New York Times, June 15, 2005.
8 Memo from Randy Randol, ExxonMobil to John Howard, White House CEQ, dated February 6, 2001, obtained by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
9 Center for Responsive Politics. http://www.opensecrets.org. Number based on contributions of $200 or more to federal candidates from PACs and individuals and from soft money reported to the Federal Election Commission.
10 Ibid.
11 "Exxon Money 2004 Key Facts," Greenpeace USA, accessed June 30, 2005.
12 Arctic Power, http://www.anwr.org/.
13 Center for Public Integrity, Lobby Watch, ExxonMobil. http://www.publicintegrity.org/lobby.
14 Exxon's Climate Footprint: The Contribution of Exxonmobil to Climate Change Since 1882, Friends of the Earth International, January 2004.
15 Vicki Wolf, "Unprecedented support for climate change resolution at ExxonMobil's 123rd Annual Meeting,"Citizens League for Environmental Action Now, May 2005.
16 Denial and Deception: A Chronicle of ExxonMobil’s Efforts to Corrupt the Debate on Global Warming, Greenpeace, May 2002.
17 Ibid.
18 The New York Times, 22 April 1998 and “Odd Names Added to Greenhouse Plea,” The Associated Press, May 1, 1998.

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