- Joe Manchin (D-WV)
- Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)
- Jon Tester (D-MT)
- Maggie Hassan (D-NH)
- Chris Coons (D-DE)
- Mark Kelly (D-AZ)
- Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)
- John Barrasso (R-WY)
- John Cornyn (R-TX)
- Steve Daines (R-MT)
- Marco Rubio (R-FL)
These are the U.S. senators named in a video Greenpeace UK released this week in which lobbyists cop to fossil fuel behemoth Exxon Mobil’s clandestine efforts to appear supportive of climate change-mitigation legislation while simultaneously shoveling money to senators hoping they will work to weaken climate elements included in President Biden’s infrastructure plan.
Greenpeace’s project “Unearthed” features senior director for federal relations, Keith McCoy, and Dan Easley, revealing lobbying strategies that include working with “shadow groups” and “wins” during the Trump administration.
“Did we join some of these shadow groups to work against some of the early efforts? Yes, that’s true. But there’s nothing—there’s nothing illegal about that.”
“We’re playing defense because President Biden is talking about this big infrastructure package, and he’s going to pay for it by increasing corporate taxes. You stick to highways and bridges, then a lot of the negative stuff starts to come out, because —there’s a germaneness, right? That doesn’t make any sense for a highway bill. Why would you put in—why would you put in something on emissions reductions on climate change to oil refineries in a highway bill?”
About the senators in Exxon’s pocket, McCoy boasts:
“Senator Capito, who’s the ranking member on environment and public works. Joe Manchin, I talk to his office every week, and he is the kingmaker on this, because he’s a Democrat from West Virginia, which is a very conservative state. And he’s not shy about sort of staking his claim early and completely changing the debate. So, on the Democrat side, we look for the moderates on these issues. So it’s the Manchins. It’s the Sinemas. It’s the Testers.”
“I will tell you, there is not an appetite for a carbon tax. It is a non-starter. Nobody is going to propose a tax on all Americans. And the cynical side of me says, ‘Yeah, we kind of know that. But it gives us a talking point. We can say, ‘Well, what is ExxonMobil for? Well, we’re for a carbon tax.’”
He then drops the most obvious bomb:
“We were looking out for our investments. We were looking out for our shareholders.”
When McCoy’s comments were exposed, he posted to LinkedIn:
“I am deeply embarrassed by my comments and that I allowed myself to fall for Greenpeace’s deception. My statements clearly do not represent ExxonMobil‘s positions on important public policy issues.”
But this is not deterring Congressmember Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), House Oversight Subcommittee on the Environment chair, from plans to invite CEOs of Exxon and other fossil fuel giants to testify before the committee about their involvement in obfuscating congressional action to address the climate emergency.
Khanna has “spoken to a number of people in leadership” about issuing subpoenas to Exxon, Chevron, and others to hearings on dark money’s influence on climate change disinformation and the role social media plays in perpetuating climate change lies.
Khanna told Politico:
“It is a major problem. One of the reasons that we haven’t had action is that we don’t have a common source of facts. Until we solve the climate disinformation issue or at least mitigate the issue, it becomes very hard to build a broad-based political consensus that is needed to take the kind of bold steps that are needed to tackle the crisis.”
Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods stated the company “condemn[s] the statements,” explaining they do not represent the company’s position on climate change.
However, many interpret this as a disingenuous attempt to save face after being caught.
Fossil Free Media director Jamie Henn tweeted:
This isn’t an apology, it’s a coverup. https://t.co/DlRKYBZB8g
— Jamie Henn (@jamieclimate) July 2, 2021
He told Common Dreams:
“Exxon is in full damage control mode, but I don’t think they can cover this one up. The leaked tape wasn’t from a random intern, but from their senior director of legislative affairs. The idea that he wasn’t representing the company’s real positions is ludicrous.
“It’s worth thinking about why this is so damaging for Exxon. After all, they deal with criticism over their lobbying, oil spills, and pollution all the time, but rarely issue statements, let alone entire blog posts, from their CEO. I think they’re especially freaked out about the leaked tape because it cuts at the core of their entire political strategy: avoiding regulation by pretending to support climate solutions.”
“The argument that they deserve a seat at the table because ‘they support a carbon tax’ has been blown to smithereens. The video confirms what we’ve argued all along: Exxon is trying to burn the table, and the entire planet, down to the ground.”
Truthout‘s Candice Bernd tweeted:
Exxon doubles down on positions its lobbyists confirmed are total artifice and subterfuge. https://t.co/TpkEA9WoCu
— Candice Bernd (@CandiceBernd) July 2, 2021
.@exxonmobil knows that fossil fuel burning is contributing to climate change—that’s why they’ve been using @APIenergy as “whipping boys” to get away with their worst anti-climate moves.https://t.co/dFg4QTG8GG
— Western Values Project (@Western_Values) July 2, 2021
Kyle Herrig, “Accountable.US” president, said in a statement:
“Exxon’s lobbyist said the quiet part out loud, but the oil company’s rampant hypocrisy on climate action has long been obvious.
“Oil and gas companies like Exxon publicly claim they want to work with the Biden administration to take real steps on climate action. In reality, they’re hiding behind the American Petroleum Institute and its unreliable climate commitments—polluting and advocating against the very same policy changes they want their shareholders and customers to believe they support.
“These companies have a choice: fess up to their hypocrisy or cut off their connections—and revenue streams—to API.”
Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, & Third Wednesday. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, Liberal Nation Rising, and Medium.