Exxon, VW & UK Gov’t accused of misleading public


What do ExxonMobil, VW and the UK Government have in common? Each stands accused of deliberately misleading the public and in the case of Exxon and the UK Government, of misleading Congress and Parliament about climate change science, and the true implications of recent changes to UK energy policy.

Exxon is accused of using the research it denied publicly to further its operations in the arctic. Photo Orlan Platform, Chayvo field, arctic. http://cdn.exxonmobil.com Photo credit: Justin on Unsplash

Investigations by the Los Angeles Times, Columbia University and Inside Climate News published in the last month have revealed that ExxonMobil, whilst having access to cutting-edge climate science embarked on a decades long programme of climate change denial in public.

The research shows that in the 1970s and 1980s, Exxon’s team of scientists led the field on climate science. Unsurprisingly, they were very clear about the link between fossil fuels and climate change and had no doubt of the risks this posed to humanity. Yet by 1990 – the time of the first IPCC report – senior management were aggressively promoting the view that climate science was still unclear and unproven.

Recent press reports in the US media allege that Exxon took operational advantage of its research into Arctic warming and the implications for oil exploration: the suggestion is that, in private, it believed and was acting upon the science whilst at the same time, it was funding a programme of disinformation that opposed the findings of its own scientists and the wider scientific community.

At the same time the Exxon story was breaking, the VW emissions scandal ratcheted up another notch with reports of “irregularities” in carbon dioxide emissions which could affect 800,000 cars in Europe, on top of previous admissions that 11m diesel vehicles worldwide were fitted with so called “defeat devices” to circumvent tests for emissions of nitrogen oxides.

Both VW and ExxonMobil now face investigations and possible charges of fraud. German prosecutors have opened an investigation of the former VW boss Martin Winterkorn, over the emissions scandal and New York attorney general has subpoenaed Exxon and Peabody Energy, over claims they misled the public and investors.

Meanwhile UK Energy Secretary Amber Rudd (MP) is accused of deliberately misleading the public and Parliament about the UK’s ability to meet its EU renewable energy target.

Despite implementing drastic cuts in support for on-shore wind, solar, and community energy since the General Election, the Minister has continued to maintain in public and to Parliament that the UK was on course to deliver its renewable energy targets.

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd is accused of misleading Parliament about compliance with EU renewable energy targets. Photo: Screen shot http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Commons

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd is accused of misleading Parliament about compliance with EU renewable energy targets. Photo: Screen shot http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Commons

However, letters leaked to the Ecologist reveal that the Department of Energy and Climate Change believes the UK will in fact miss its legally binding obligation by an estimated 50TWh (terawatt hours), or 3.5% of its 15% obligation – a shortfall of almost 25%. And instead of meeting the target by increasing renewable energy capacity in the UK, the Government is considering a set of convoluted and expensive measures including buying renewable power from elsewhere in Europe, and setting up as yet non-existent ‘statistical credits’ for renewable energy to avoid being penalised for failure to comply.

What these disclosures suggest that ExxonMobil, VW and the UK Government share in common is an almost total detachment from very issue the renewable energy target was designed to address –  global warming and the consequences of a rapidly changing climate. Science, regulation, and policy commitments have been reduced to counters in a game, the objectives of which are profit, short-term self-interest and the advancement of a few pre-selected winners. They also imply an underlying contempt for both customers and voters.

By comparison to the media storm which engulfed the leaked e-mails in the run-up to the Copenhagen summit in 2009, coverage of all three revelations has been light.

The danger is that disclosures like these merely feed already cynical preconceptions that we should expect nothing less from big corporations or elected officials. But if we are to get on top of the climate crisis, not only should we expect, but we should demand much, much more.

Read more

Ecologist: Leaked letter: Rudd admits 25% green energy undershoot, misled Parliament. Click here.

Congressmen want probe of Exxon Mobil ‘failing to disclose’ climate change data (LA Times). Click here.

Exxon’s Climate Cover-Up Should Be Investigated By DOJ, Tobacco Prosecutor Says (ThinkProgress). Click here.

Exxon Knew Everything There Was to Know About Climate Change by the Mid-1980s—and Denied It (The Nation)

What Exxon Knew About the Melting Artic (LA Times)

Exxon Sowed Doubt About Climate Science for Decades by Stressing Uncertainty (Inside Climate News)

ExxonMobil pioneered climate-change research since the 1970s, and now it’s attacking media reporting on that (Quartz)

Bookmark and Share