Environmentalists boycott ExxonMobil

Starting today, a group of environmentalists including the U.S. Public Interest Group, Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists and MoveOn Political Action Committee are planning on boycotting ExxonMobil. According to this short New York Times article, ExxonMobil is being targeted because they still support drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and because the CEO is a known critic of the idea that human activity has led to global warming. According to the executive of the Sierra Club, Carl Pope, ExxonMobil was chosen because its record is worse than its competitors'."'The other oil companies have aspirations for environmental performance,' Mr. Pope said."

There was also a piece about the boycott on NPR's Morning Edition today.

The coalition's website ExxposeExxon goes on to note:
ExxonMobil has acted consistently to move our country backward on energy policy by opposing efforts to stop global warming, lobbying to drill in America's most pristine wilderness areas, and failing to promote renewable energy and fuel efficiency.
This would appear to be contrary to Chevron, which, as we recently wrote about, has started a website called willyoujoinus that frankly recognizes that alternatives to oil are sorely needed and is engaging consumers in a dialogue that is apparently about peak oil (although they don't use that word overtly). A cursory search of other companies shows that they all at least have websites addressing issues such as global warming and alternative energy sources: Shell, BP/Amoco, Hess.

I will single out Citgo as an interesting case, and not necessarily in a positive way. For one thing, it was somewhat more difficult to find their position on global warming on their website than it was for the other companies. When I finally found it, I was surprised at what I found. While some companies, like Hess, were pretty cursory, they at least seemed to accept that global warming is a real phenomenon and they have some verbiage about trying to reduce emissions. Citgo has a considerably longer treatise on global warming that both explains what it is in theory, but then goes on to let us know (using somewhat inflammatory language) that it's also a controversial topic in the eyes of the American government:
Ignoring the controversial science and questionable computer modeling on global warming, U.S. negotiators in Kyoto, Japan, agreed to a global warming treaty that requires our country to cut emissions of greenhouse gases 7 percent below 1990 levels. Although some 160 nations may sign the treaty, emission reduction requirements will only apply to 34 developed nations. President Bush thinks that the science linking CO2 to climate change is weak and has instructed his administration to conduct additional research and develop a more practical solution that is less damaging to the U.S. economy. The U.S. Congress is also considering legislation to reduce carbon emissions.
Citgo's "solution" to the problem is a global credit and trading program for greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, they're seriously opposed to taxes:
If taxes are imposed to meet treaty obligations, the price of gasoline could double. This will increase the cost of every commodity that is shipped to every market and U.S. household. CITGO believes the United States should not impair its economy without full public education and debate.
I don't know. It sounds to me like the coalition should include Citgo in their boycott, if their primary concern is a company's denial of global warming.

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Exxon is unique in their vocal opposition, and far more importantly to my mind, efforts to influence the discussion about climate change. I do think the other big energy companies are taking steps, albiet small, in the right direction. I think the boycott is a good idea.

However, one issue that seems to be overlooked is that coal is a far greater contributor to climate change than oil, but is almost entirely left out of the discussion. The impact of oil on the climate is capped by the availability of oil. I think it is possible to address climate change and almost ignore oil.

I would expect that an anaysis of political donations and spending on climate "research" would show that coal producers and users are at least as great an offender. Unfortunately they are harder to boycott.

I think targetting Exxon is good, because they are on the wrong side of the issue and can be targeted, but at the end of the day, you can not ignore coal and reduce man's impact on the climate.

Re: that text you quoted from Citgo "controversial science":

Actually, the Bush administation spends a lot of its time editing out the scientific findings it considers objectionable. There is no scientific controversy (at the level we care about here) about anthropogenic forcing of the climate, I mean zero, zip, nadda. I'm not aware of Citgo sponsoring climate change "skeptics", but here's some of the track record of ExxonMobil from Mother Jones. A few wingnuts at Citgo are probably considered small potatoes as far as a boycott target goes. Again, I'll plug Real Climate if people in the Oil Drum communiity are interested in the scientific consensus on various aspects of climate change.

Everybody loathes Raymond

On the topic of global warming, I just returned from a presentation by Al Gore on the subject. He was extremely impressive; he seems to have become much less stiff in his speaking style, and he was funny, engaging, and convincing. I certainly did not need convincing, but I doubt that anyone there who did could have left without major concern about human's impact on the Earth. If he comes to your town, you definitely need to see him speak.

After the speech, I had a chance to shake his hand. Thinking it might be the best route, I asked him if he was familiar Congressman Roscoe Bartlett's work on energy depletion, because I feel there are many interrelated issues between it and global warming. To paraphrase, Mr. Gore said we probably are at Peak Oil and he really should add some of that discussion to his presentation on global warming that he has been presenting across the world.

I found it interesting that he said Peak Oil without me ever mentioning the exact words...

I may be flogging a dead horse here, but oil is a secondary cause of green house gases and as a climate problem is self curing. If it runs out it can't hurt the climate.

Coal is far and away the greatest contributor to climate change, reserves are massive and in the absense of oil, the role of coal is only going to get bigger.

My intention is not to discuss coal. But I do think it is a bit disingenuous to talk about climate change and spend 99% of your time on what is, in relative terms, a minor contrbutor to greenhouse gasses.

Well Jack I think it is entirely relevant. This is because as the oil runs out, the temptation will be to embrace coal. That is the danger. That is the one fossil fuel that we have a lot of. If the end of oil means a new age of coal, we are truly screwed.


I don't think we will be going back to the Stanley Steamer any time soon. As long as it isn't burned in traditional ways, we can probably make it work. The technology is there for clean coal usage - but it will be quite a fight, because it isn't cheap to burn it clean, and corporations are all about doing it on the cheap for more margin dollars.

A clean coal/electric economy can probably be worked out, but doing it strictly via economics will kill us all. I really don't think environmental effects are concerns of economists, but they should concern those economists who have children, and those who want clean air and a stable climate. Going to coal will require corporate ownership of emissions and the responsibility for keeping them squeaky clean. The only thing that has ever been effective with stubborn creatures is the old carrot and stick. I think this can be made to work with the right incentives and penalties.

With the government currently sleeping in the same bed as most big CEO's, this cannot happen. With corporations currently thinking strictly about profits, there is a driver to minimize costs at every turn. A new set of operating principles needs to be in effect before this can happen in a safe fashion. CEO's and board members need to become responsive to public needs and desires, and mediate corporate policies for the common good. They no longer function in that capacity - they are strictly about money, money and more money.

Realistically, we will eventually have to turn to coal to maintain any kind of heavy industry unless we develop a new power generation infrastructure and energy storage mechanism. And there is simply no incentive to do that anywhere on the table. We currently have no energy problems according to the PTB. We just have energy security problems....