*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
Over the course of the past couple of years some of the giants in the oil industry have intimated that they were converting themselves into champions of the environment and were on the forefront of and leading the battle to halt anthropogenic climate change. Obviously, it was a gargantuan shift in policy to the days of paying Republicans in Congress and state legislatures to fight any and all efforts to confront the greatest threat to human survival in man’s history; in many circles it was just too good to be true. As is normally the case when something appears too good to be true, the concept of the oil industry joining the fight against climate change was just that: too good to be true and a monumental farce.
About a month ago, Exxon Mobil Corporation appeared to be publicly ramping up its lobbying efforts of other energy companies to support a carbon tax. Obviously, it sounded too good to be true. The effort was part of a phony response to growing pressure on the fossil fuel industry to do its part to “address the politically charged issue” of global climate change. The “publicity scam” was meant to portray ExxonMobil as making a conscientious shift away from its typical resistance to doing anything to reduce carbon emissions driving climate change, and instead was leading the rest of the dirty energy industry to make a 180-degree change. However, like anything connected to the Koch brothers, ExxonMobil has no intent of doing anything more than talk about a carbon tax as evidenced by its continued campaign contributions to Republicans who reliably oppose and block any and all efforts to save the climate.
Beginning in 2009, ExxonMobil, like Shell Oil cautioning about the danger of climate change, was acting as if they embraced the idea of a carbon tax to aid in reducing the amount of carbon being poured into the atmosphere. However, while appearing to be stricken with a social ethic, the oil giant devotedly funded Republicans in Congress who determined long ago that their political life-goal was working resolutely to oppose any effort remotely connected to fighting climate change. They were particularly opposed to a European-style cap-and-trade system and vehemently emphasized their aversion and certain obstruction of implementing a carbon tax.
In fact, although Exxon has claimed to support a carbon tax since 2009, as late as March 2015 thirty of the 40 senators who voted to pass a budget amendment (58 to 42) prohibiting enactment of anything close to a carbon tax were recipients of ExxonMobil campaign contributions. It is noteworthy that the thirty senators began receiving ExxonMobil contributions in about 2010, barely a year after the oil company started paying lip service to the benefits to humanity of a carbon tax to save the planet. At the time, the carbon tax campaign was a complete farce of a cover story that it was a more palatable choice in Congress than the Democrat’s preferred cap-and-trade, even though the world’s largest oil company spent millions to ensure that neither cap-and-trade nor a carbon tax passed to combat climate change.
A similar situation occurred two years earlier in March 2013 when 156 members of the House cosponsored a non-binding resolution stating categorically that “a carbon tax would be detrimental to American families and businesses and is not in the best interest of the United States.” Of the 156 House member co-sponsors, ninety-three percent of those members’ campaigns were being generously funded by the same oil company, ExxonMobil that “publicly” endorsed the benefit of a tax on carbon.
Fast forward to last December when, the company’s outgoing vice president of public and government affairs, Ken Cohen wrote about ExxonMobil’s strong support for a carbon tax. He even took time to boast that the world’s largest oil company had been holding “countless private briefings with members of Congress on carbon tax policy options.” However, when a June 2016 vote came up in the House to pass another resolution similar to the one in 2013, eighty-five percent of the members voting to resolve that “a carbon tax would be detrimental to the United States economy” were recipients of ExxonMobil political donations; this time since 2013.
It is noteworthy that 82 of the ExxonMobil campaign donation recipients were affirmed and documented climate change and science deniers. One can only envision what kind of “campaign donation” conversations Exxon had with climate deniers during those “countless private briefings;” they certainly couldn’t have been about enacting a carbon tax due to something the 82 House members claimed was non-existent.
None of these various oil industry feints toward regard for the Earth’s climate should be the least bit surprising. All of America’s oil industry giants, and less significant fossil fuel entities as well, and the Koch brothers and their anti-climate cohort in ALEC and the Heritage Foundation portray themselves as acutely concerned about saving the environment, combatting climate change and protecting Americans’ health. All the while the Koch brothers, ExxonMobil, Shell Oil and the rest of the fossil fuel industry heavily fund any and all efforts to block real determinations to combat climate change; including paying, primarily Republicans, House and Senate members handsomely to block even minimal climate change efforts.
With a general election looming, and more Americans finally grasping that climate change is real, here to stay and an existential threat to their survival, it is typical for the oil industry, particularly a giant like ExxonMobil, to promote themselves as champions in the fight to reduce global warming. It is highly likely the industry is well aware that many voters pay heed to which corporation is funding their representatives or candidates seeking their votes and is doing what is needed for image control. But no American should be deluded into thinking that ExxonMobil, the Kochs, or any of their dirty energy cabal have any interest in combating climate change or supporting any candidate concerned with doing whatever is needed to save the planet’s climate; like the Republicans they fund it is just not in their nature.