EXXON CONFRONTS SHAREHOLDERS AND COURTS OVER COVER-UP AND FUNDING CLIMATE SKEPTICISM

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30 june 2016

[4C Note: See also the article from The Christian Science Monitor underneath the following piece:"Why Exxon Mobil is Now Lobbying for a Carbon Tax"]

Did Exxon Lie About Global Warming?

Oil giant knew dangers of climate change and did everything in its power to deny threat of a warming planet

By McKenzie Funk, Rolling Stone June 30, 2016

At 9 a.m., ExxonMobil's shareholders start to file into Dallas' Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center for their annual meeting. Security personnel check IDs and confiscate phones. Uniformed police stand guard. Everyone passes through metal detectors. Outside is a crowd of protesters hoisting signs – "Exxon Lies, Seas Rise" – while standing beside a 13-foot ice sculpture of #ExxonKnew. Inside the cavernous auditorium, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson stands onstage, his podium framed by two massive pots of white carnations and a pop-up forest of green ferns. Behind him is a beautiful image of a snow-dusted desertscape – Utah, perhaps – with an oil derrick perched lightly atop a rock outcropping. "For many years now," Tillerson begins, "ExxonMobil has held the view that the risks of climate change are serious and do warrant action."

On this muggy Texas morning, the world's largest publicly traded oil company, one of the most profitable corporations of any kind anywhere ever, is facing unprecedented pressure. A series of in-depth reports recently revealed that Exxon, a font of climate skepticism in the 1990s and 2000s, had also been on the cutting edge of climate science as far back as the 1970s. It ran its own computer models, built up a team of in-house experts, and understood from the beginning that any effort to stop global warming would mean an effort to reduce fossil-fuel use. As the threat of regulation grew, the company gave tens of millions of dollars to dozens of think tanks and advocacy groups that churned out white papers questioning even the most basic facts of climate change. It took out full-page advertorials in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal with titles like "Climate Change: A Degree of Uncertainty" and "With Climate Change, What We Don't Know Can Hurt Us."

Last November, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman opened a fraud investigation, subpoenaing the company for 39 years' worth of internal memos, e-mails and other documents related to climate change. In March, he announced a new coalition of 17 states and territories that will pursue climate litigation against Big Oil. Members of Congress and both Democratic presidential candidates have called on the Department of Justice to do the same. The FBI is circling. The 70,000-person company, long a symbol of American corporate might, is under siege. This investigation, Al Gore has said, "may well be looked back on as a major turning point."

Now, in Dallas, Exxon is being confronted by yet another group: its own shareholders. As never before, Exxon's investors are worried about how global efforts to curtail rising temperatures will hurt the company's profits. To meet the climate goals of last year's Paris Agreement, more than two-thirds of global fossil-fuel reserves – $100 trillion worth, according to a Citigroup estimate – would have to remain in the ground. If Exxon believes climate change is real, that warming more than two degrees Celsius could be catastrophic, and that the world is finally serious about averting this disaster, it must also accept that it may never sell tens of billions of barrels of oil currently on its balance sheet.

Read more:


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Why Exxon Mobil is now lobbying for a carbon tax


The world's largest publicly owned company is lobbying other American energy firms to get behind it.

By Ben Rosen, Christian Science Monitor Staff, June 30, 2016

In an attempt to combat climate change, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company is asking to be taxed.

Exxon Mobil is lobbying the rest of the American industry, as well as Capitol Hill, for a revenue-neutral carbon tax, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. Exxon has welcomed a tax on carbon emissions since 2009. But December's Paris Agreement, aimed specifically at keeping most fossil fuel reserves in the ground, has prompted the company to increase its efforts over the past six months to convince the rest of the industry to get on board.

Exxon Mobil's efforts indicate a shift among American oil producers that follows their European counterparts, including Royal Dutch Shell and BP. Coupled with the Paris agreement and national and sub-national pressures, the industry's new attitude reflects "a widening acceptance of climate change as a challenge humanity should – and can – tackle," as Cristina Maza wrote for The Christian Science Monitor when chief executives of oil supermajors, such as BP, Eni, and Statoil, wrote a letter to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to advocate for a carbon tax in the hottest June on record in 2015.
Recommended: Taxes in 2015: 7 changes and 9 weird deductions

"Previously Exxon's positioning on a carbon tax had been passive – 'Hey, we're not loving it, but we're not going to get in the way of it,' " Michael McKenna, president of the energy lobbying firm MWR Strategies, whose clients include oil and refining companies, but not Exxon, told the Journal. "In just the last six months, there's been an uptick in how they are asserting themselves in meetings about how to address this issue."

"Of the policy options being considered by governments, we believe a revenue-neutral carbon tax is the best," Suzanne McCarron, Exxon's vice president of public and government affairs, wrote in May in the Dallas Morning News.

A carbon tax is just what it sounds like: a tax on fossil fuels, typically levied at the first point-of-sale, coal mine, oil or gas wellhead, or the port or border crossing. The type of tax Exxon Mobil supports is revenue-neutral, meaning the tax would be offset by other taxes being lowered.

A carbon tax has much support among academics, economists, and others in the public policy sector, according to Howard Gleckman of TaxVox. Energy producers, however, have historically resisted it.

As global temperatures have warmed, and the industry has come under fire, its resistance to the tax has subsided. The European oil executives indicated this in their letter to the United Nations.

"Pricing carbon obviously adds a cost to our production and our products," reads the letter the group sent the United Nations, "but carbon pricing policy frameworks will contribute to provide our businesses and their many stakeholders with a clear roadmap for future investment, a level playing field for all energy sources across geographies and a clear role in securing a more sustainable future."

From their perspective, increasing the price of carbon emissions is far simpler than regulations imposed on them. And some of the revenue could alleviate how much it hurts customers, wrote Mr. Gleckman of TaxVox.

“Some of the revenue generated by such a tax could be used to cushion the economic blow suffered by low-income households as well as coal mining communities,” he writes. “Extra revenue could be used to reduce individual or payroll tax rates, help finance corporate tax reform, or trim the budget deficit.”

There are skeptics of Exxon’s motives. It began publicly supporting a carbon tax, as the cap-and-trade model – in which a limit is placed on the industry’s carbon production – gained popularity. If any firm exceeds the amount of carbon it can emit, it is penalized. Exxon is also facing two inquiries from Democratic attorney generals over whether it conspired to cover its knowledge about the impact of global warming.

But a carbon tax could become a reality, especially in a Democratically controlled White House or Senate.


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