A Bloomberg story revealing that Exxon knew about its carbon future and intentionally kept that data from view has been all over Twitter for me. Akshat Rathi, who wrote the article, shared a thread that noted that newly leaked documents showed Exxon’s future emissions for dozens of projects in its pipeline. Rathi tweeted that they reveal that it’s not only an Exxon problem — most of the oil companies knew about their future climate toll, and chose to keep the data from the public and their investors.
New leaked documents show Exxon's future emissions for dozens of projects in the pipeline. They reveal it's not just Exxon but that most oil companies know about their future climate toll. The data is kept from investors and the public.
— Akshat Rathi (@AkshatRathi) December 23, 2020
Rathi noted that in October Bloomberg reported on another set of leaked documents showing that Exxon’s emissions were set to rise as much as 17% by 2025 — based on pre-pandemic plans. Also in his thread, Rathi noted that investors were demanding to see the information that so many oil companies were trying to not reveal — and that many were involved in putting pressure on the oil companies to stop hiding their data.
“Improved disclosures could help investors better shape the direction companies take in the energy transition. In Exxon’s case, it could have meant that one of the world’s largest carbon capture facility got built instead of being put on the back burner,” Rathi said in his tweet. (Editor’s note: technically, carbon capture facilities are not the best use of financial resources — it would be better off if Exxon used such funding to build renewable energy power plants.)
I bookmarked this thread when I saw it, and that’s where things got interesting. After I bookmarked Rathi’s thread, I started seeing tweets promoted by Exxon. The third time I saw it, I took a screenshot and noted that it was promoted. I’ve seen it 9 times since then.
— Getting Stoned 💎 (@JohnnaCrider1) December 24, 2020
In the promoted tweet by Exxon, the company says it has an ongoing commitment to help mitigate the risks of climate change and that it is announcing plans to reduce its operational emissions in the next 5 years. I find this extremely odd and suspicious, especially since Rathi’s article pretty much busted Exxon for keeping the data about its real emissions for 2025 hidden.
Exxon included a link and I clicked it so that you didn’t have to, and it went to a polished corporate website claiming that its “plan to drive meaningful near-term emissions reductions” is built on “the success of existing efforts to reduce methane emissions and flaring.” Exxon also said on this website that these plans are consistent with the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
On its website, Exxon also claimed that it is investing $10 billion into climate action, which is the same value as the Golden Pass LNG export project. The photo below is a screenshot from the Exxon website promoted in that Twitter ad.
What Is Exxon Trying To Hide With That Promoted Tweet?
In the Bloomberg article by Rathi and Kevin Crowley, who Rathi mentioned in the first tweet of his thread, the pair pointed out that in February of 2019, Exxon was ready to make one of the largest-ever investments in a US hub for overseas shipments of liquefied natural gas.
As noted above, this project, which was planned to be built on the Texas coast, was named Golden Pass and was estimated to cost $10 billion. This was such a big deal that the now-former Secretary of the Department of Energy, Rick Perry, came out to celebrate the new terminal. The article noted that it was celebrated as a gift of clean energy to your friends around the world. However, Rathi and Crowley commented that not only was there no mention of the emissions that would be released from Golden Pass at the announcement, but the forecasts of climate pollution also weren’t shared with Exxon’s investors.
Once you see just what those emissions are expected to be, the real picture of why Exxon was promoting tweets to polish it image becomes clear. Internal planning documents dating from before the pandemic that were reviewed by Bloomberg Green showed forecasts for direct emissions at Golden Pass — 3.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2025.
3.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2025!
My Question for ExxonMobil
How is planning to release this much carbon dioxide helping to mitigate the risks of climate change, helping to reduce emissions by 2025?
To me, it’s obvious that Exxon got called out and is now in cover-up mode. By promoting a social media advertising campaign linking to its glistening corporate website, which presents a company that cares about the climate, it can distract the average reader from caring about Rathi and Crowley’s Bloomberg article. In essence, it’s their attempt at damage control.
Exxon’s likely plan:
Step 1: get $300 million government handout claiming for green purposes.
Step 2: buy $100 carbon credits online
Step 3: pocket $299,999,900 difference
Exxon can’t be fixed, they need to be shut down.
— VoteForEarth (@fukungrabbit) December 24, 2020
Exxon Is Spending Millions In Its Campaign To Rally Support For Fossil Fuels.
In These Times reported in October that Exxon is spending millions on Facebook to keep the fossil fuel industry alive. The firm aiding Exxon is a right-wing political consulting firm. Together, they are enticing supporters to fight for oil and gas interests at every level of government.
The political consulting firm, known as Santa Barbara for Safe and Local Transport (SBSLT), started its campaign for select California residents, and despite its deceptive logo instilling the sense of a grassroots group or even a governmental highway agency, this organization is key to Exxon’s campaign to change the public’s mind about offshore drilling on California’s Central Coast.
The article pointed out that Exxon has spent more than any other major corporation on Facebook ads in the “social issues, elections, or politics” category, and that it is the country’s ninth-largest buyer of such ads overall — with $15.6 million spent from May 7, 2018, through October 8, 2020.
In These Times conducted a detailed examination of around $10 million of Exxon’s ad spending — which complemented more than $23 million spent on lobbying lawmakers directly in 2018 and 2019. It also examined the #103 million Exxon spent on TV advertising, radio, print, and outdoor ads from June 2018 through June 2020.
The article pointed out that many of the Facebook and Instagram ads it looked at included calls to action such as surveys or petitions. One of Exxon’s largest campaigns told Facebook users to contact their lawmakers to support the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, the successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that President Trump ratified earlier this year. This campaign even had an email and letter template for those willing to write their lawmakers.
In a nutshell, the oil industry successfully lobbied and got what it wanted. This included special protection that allows it to circumvent Mexico’s court system and use international arbitration in the event of an investment dispute.
Exxon spent around $1.3 million on the campaign ads, which appeared on users’ screens as many as 21.4 million times. You can read the full article detailing the millions Exxon spent on its ad campaigns here.
The fossil fuel industry only cares about profits, no matter how high the cost is. If it kills our planet, so be it — they want their money. If it eventually kills you, me, and everyone else — as long as they get their money in the next few years, it’s not that big of a deal to them. If they truly cared about the climate, they wouldn’t hide their data from investors and the public. And they wouldn’t try to deflect from a scathing piece by putting out more social media campaigns that are claiming the opposite of what it is they are actually doing.
Bloomberg Green called out Exxon for hiding data that showed that Exxon’s Golden Pass LNG project was expected to contribute 3.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the world’s atmosphere. Exxon responded with a social media campaign that seemed to target anyone interacting with tweets about Exxon, or at least about that article. At least, it seems this is what they did with me. I liked Rathi’s tweet, bookmarked it to come back to it so that I could write about it here, and then saw the same promoted tweet by Exxon 12 times.
This campaign entices the user to click a link and go to a website that presents a beautiful display and some pretty charts to convince you that Exxon is not “the bad guy.”
As I read it, this is Exxon’s attempt to downplay the Bloomberg article without directly responding to it.