What should we do with companies like Exxon Mobil?

Despite having led the world on climate research, they were having board meetings about climate change and the impact of their activities 50 years ago, Exxon Mobil have spent the last half century putting out slick adverts and then carrying on with business as normal.

As the world wakes up to the incredible threat that climate change holds for the world, they are continue to fight hard against climate change mitigation or reduction in fossil fuel emissions – in private through professional lobbyists, but in public they act the good company taking their responsibilities seriously.

For instance, back in 2018, they spent $20.2 billion on capital and exploration. Does that sound like a company who understands much of the remaining oiil must be left in the ground?

Not to me.

Now that the USA has a president that is keen to actually take steps to mitigate future temperature rises, they are busy trying to weaken the legislation.

A senior Exxon lobbyist describes Bidens plans on cutting emissions as insane – this is despite that their own research from 50 years ago showed what was required. Indeed, back in May during a zoom call one of their lobbysts suggested that their support for a carbon tax as the main climate policy is an “advocacy tool” or great talking point but will never happen.

It should be noted that while Exxon claims to have always supported climate action, through the 1990s and 2000s they spent many millions on a disinformation campaign intent on confusing people and manufacturing doubt about the link between the climate change we are all experiencing and the burning of fossil fuels.

Indeed, despite this all having happened in public, it is only in a recent report written by a reporter who had interviewed McCoy (the senior lobbyist) undercover, that he admitted they had misled the public. This was of course immediately followed by him pointing out that nothing that they had done was illegal and that they were only looking out for their shareholders and investments.

They also claimed to never lie. However, given their own research from the past 50 years clearly informing them that the world is warming, and that their products are a large part of the reason, alongside their own campaign to encourage doubt in climate change science, it is hard to agree with them.

When presented with this report, Exxon put out a carefully worded statement ignoring their lies and misinformation and not really saying anything. Certainly there has been no apology for their lies.

What should happen to companies like this? If we had started this process of reducing carbon emissions 50 years ago, this would likely be a far smaller problem. What should happen to them? Given that they spent more than $20 billion on exploration in 2018 any fine must run into the hundreds of billions if it is to be more than a slap on the wrists. More to the point, how can we punish the many CEOs that have since left the company (Rex Tillerson is one of these). There needs to be such a punishment for this behaviour that no CEO or company dares do it again.

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