A tale of two oil companies

Hugo Chavez comes to Alaska's rescue, while Exxon fiddles and the world burns

Published September 20, 2006 4:01PM (EDT)

A couple of news flashes from Big Oil. (Thanks to Salon readers Cynthia Muller and Judd Legum for the tips.)

The Anchorage Daily News is reporting that Venezuela's state-owned oil company is disbursing 100 gallons of heating oil to 12,000 low-income Alaskan households, through its Houston-based subsidiary CITGO. Sure, the state's residents already get some help from the federally funded Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program -- about $17 million worth, last year. But as a Daily News editorial pointed out, "federal funding is at the same level today as it was 20 years ago, which means it's far short of what is needed. Gov. Frank Murkowski this year asked legislators to appropriate $8.8 million in state cash to supplement the program, but lawmakers gave the governor -- and low-income Alaskans -- the cold shoulder and rejected the request."

Meanwhile, the left-oriented blog ThinkProgress is declaring that Exxon has stopped funding the Competitive Enterprise Institute, those wacky jokers who produced advertisements last year declaring, "Carbon dioxide: They call it pollution, we call it life." But before we start applauding, a closer look at the news item that prompted ThinkProgress' report -- a letter from the U.K.'s Royal Society to Exxon criticizing the company's ongoing stance on global warming -- is in order.

Exxon is claiming that it stopped funding CEI last year. But the Royal Society's letter states that "ExxonMobil last year provided more than 2.9 million to organizations in the United States which misinformed the public about climate change through their Web sites." Furthermore, states the letter, Exxon's Corporate Citizenship Report and Tomorrow's Energy document both leave readers with "an inaccurate and misleading impression of the evidence on the causes of climate change that is documented in the scientific literature. It is very difficult to reconcile the misrepresentations of climate change science in these documents with ExxonMobil's claim to be an industry leader."

There you have it, Hugo Chavez, gleefully scoring public relation points by giving heating oil to poor Alaskans, and ExxonMobil, handing out millions of dollars to pundit-for-hire climate skeptics.

There's no real reason to pair these two data points together. Except that it's fun.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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