Exxon's lies go even deeper: How the oil giant broke its promise and spent millions supporting climate denial

Eight years after pledging to stop funding climate deniers, Exxon is still at it

Published July 15, 2015 6:26PM (EDT)

  (Amy Johansson/Shutterstock)
(Amy Johansson/Shutterstock)

Even for a fossil fuel company, ExxonMobil's looking dirty.

Just last week, it earned the distinction of being the fossil fuel giant with the longest known history of climate denial. As early as 1981, it emerged, the company was aware that climate change, as a result of greenhouse gas emissions, was going to be an issue. Internally, it understood the science. Yet its public-facing strategy, over the decades that followed, was one based on denial -- a strategy backed by millions of dollars in spending.

Exxon, in response, asserted that it no longer funds climate denial groups. In fact, Exxon swore to quit that habit eight years ago -- and then went ahead and kept doing it anyway. According to the Guardian, the company's given more than $2.3 million to climate denying members of Congress and to that monster of anti-climate science lobbying groups, the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Here's the promise that Exxon, in response to pressure from shareholders, made in its 2007 Corporate Citizenship report:

In 2008 we will discontinue contributions to several public policy groups whose position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion on how the world will secure energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner.

And here's the breakdown, per its financial and tax records, of what it's done since: it's given $1.87 million to members of Congress who are on the record denying the scientific reality of man-made climate change, and $454,000 to ALEC.

Of course an oil company is going to want to support the politicians who support fossil fuel extraction, and dodging the climate issue is Republicans' go-to way for doing that -- with everything we know about the risks of climate change, it'd be pretty hard for them to justify it otherwise. But the senators who received financial backing from Exxon aren't just pulling the "I'm not a scientist" line -- 49 of them voted "no" on a resolution acknowledging that human activity is the main driver of climate change. Since 2007, Exxon's given $20,500 to Senator James Inhofe, who has zero qualms about promoting the most idiotic of climate change conspiracy theories, and $14,000 to Senator Roger Wicker, who cast the single "no" vote in a resolution saying, simply, that "climate change is real and not a hoax." These are positions of climate change that are most certainly diverting attention from important discussions -- again, the senate's wasting its time voting on whether or not to believe in something that the overwhelming majority of scientists say is happening!

As for ALEC, the group's done nothing to contradict Google chairman Eric Schmidt's infamous accusation that it's "literally lying" about climate change. On the contrary, it's still trying to insist that climate change might turn out to be a good thing.

An Exxon spokesman, in an email to the Guardian, insisted that "we don’t embrace the views of those who deny climate change or think it isn’t a serious matter." Just like our reliance on fossil fuels, it would appear lying is a tough habit to break.

By Lindsay Abrams

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Alec Climate Change Denialism Climate Deniers Exxonmobil Oil And Gas Sen. James Inhofe