This sixth installment of our series covers events occurring throughout 2012 that point to disparities between what was known and knowable by leadership at the Exxon Mobil Corporation, and what the oil giant was communicating to its shareholders regarding the risks to its operations associated with climate change and its impacts. The question is, do these known disparities rise to the level of fraud? Ongoing investigations by the NY and MA Attorneys General will determine the answer and, potentially, could find ExxonMobil guilty. Such a finding and punitive measures that could follow would represent a major turning point in the way society deals with energy corporations that peddle doubt and disinformation regarding a global threat it regards solely as a threat to annual earnings.
Pressure to deal fairly and squarely with climate change mounted in 2012: nearly a third of ExxonMobil’s shareholders voted to mandate a corporate plan to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions to specific target levels. A clever television ad campaign was launched, one that carried a message no CEO wants to hear: “Exxon Hates Your Children.” In his reelection campaign, President Barack Obama vowed to take away the comfortable crutch fossil fuel companies had come to rely on and think of as an entitlement: $4 billion of oil and gas subsidies. As it had always done, ExxonMobil under the leadership of Rex Tillerson fought back aggressively with well-funded ad campaigns, legal action, and a stubborn insistence that maximizing extraction and production took precedence over all else. Meanwhile, in its own corporate backyard, Texas continued to suffer from a debilitating, costly drought. One would have had to live in a bubble not to take notice and recognize that the long stretches of high temperatures and the prolonged rain deficit were atypical of normal weather patterns.
CSPW is preparing a White Paper that will integrate this series, covering the period from 1993 to the present (See Part One (1993-2000); Part Two (2000-2008); and Part Three(A) (2009), Part Three(B) (2010), and Part Three(C) (2011)).