activism

Exxon climate obstruction laid bare in Greenpeace expose

Keith McCoy. Photo credit: Channel 4 News.

By Anders Lorenzen

One of the world’s largest oil and chemical companies, ExxonMobil, has been exposed for doing everything in their power to slow down action on climate change, discrediting climate science and fighting environmental regulation.

A journalist from Unearthed, the investigative journalism unit at Greenpeace UK, posed as a head-hunter in a Zoom interview with Keith McCoy, a senior director of federal relations at Exxon, in which he explained how ExxonMobil, a US company, is doing everything they can to slow down action on climate change. He laid bare the  difference in what the company says they are doing publicly, what their internal policies are and the actions they actually take on the ground with stakeholders. An example would be the fact that Exxon publicly supports a carbon tax but privately they don’t and favour looking after their profits.

Fighting regulations

Exxon is the world’s largest producer of single-use plastics and in addition to slowing down action on climate change, according to McCoy Exxon is  working hard to fight regulations on single-use plastics and legislative efforts to restrict the use of toxic PFAS or “forever chemicals”. 

PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a class of man-made chemicals widely used in products ranging from non-stick pans to make-up, to firefighting foams. They have come under increased scrutiny in the US and globally in response to science linking long-term PFAS exposure to health problems including liver damage, cancer and birth and developmental disorders. They are dubbed “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment. Since the expose, Exxon has admitted they are using some PFAS.

Watering down infrastructure package 

McCoy also revealed the power of  Exxon’s  lobbying efforts and how they have managed to significantly water down President Biden’s infrastructure package by lobbying to take any climate and emission reduction efforts out of it. He further revealed that both Republicans and Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema frequently have meetings with the company in respect to these efforts. 

McCoy further revealed that Exxon uses trade associations to mask the company’s image and are lobbying Congress under the name of the American Petroleum Institute (API) to protect the company’s image.

Since this expose went live, helped by the fact that British broadcaster Channel 4 News ran the story, it has caused a bit of an earthquake in US politics. Democrat Ro Khanna who chairs the House’s environment committee now wants Exxon to testify. But US President Joe Biden has so far stayed silent on the issue.

TPFAS water contamination scandals, such as  the one depicted in the 2019 Hollywood film Dark Waters, have prompted efforts by several US politicians to restrict or more tightly control them.

This latest Exxon expose comes on the back of the revelations some years back that Exxon’s scientists in the 1980s came to the conclusion that the burning of fossil fuels does cause the planet to warm, but the company decided to sit on this information and not release the findings.

You can read more about the Unearthed expose here.

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