It comes as no surprise that oil companies hire lobbyists to promote their interests in the halls of Congress. Every company hires lobbyists these days, particularly since John Roberts and his gang of rightwing thugs ruled in Citizens United that corporations are people and have every right to use their enormous financial power to influence elections and the government just like every other citizen.
America was founded on the principal that its citizens hold the sovereign power of the nation. That quaint idea has now been tossed into the dumpster as corporations assert their newfound power. Roberts, el al., never stopped to consider that 500 megawatt amplifiers like the ones corporations have at their disposal can easily drown out the voice of a normal human being.
Ever since Citizens United, the words “We the people” have been stricken from the Constitution and replaced with “We the corporations.” Politicians don’t even pretend to listen to their constituents anymore. All their time is devoted to the legions of corporate lobbyists who infest Capitol Hill and every state legislature throughout America.
So, no, it’s not surprising that Exxon Mobil hires lobbyists. What is surprising is to hear one of them state publicly precisely how far the company is willing to go in its efforts to protect its business model. Here’s what happened. Last month, a group of people working for Greenpeace UK’s Unearthed program contacted lobbyist Keith McCoy. During a Zoom call, McCoy gave them an earful about his activities on behalf of Exxon. Of course, the Zoom session was recorded and was later made public.
According to Newsweek, McCoy made no secret of the fact that Exxon has funded “shadow groups” to spread misinformation about climate science. “Did we join some of these shadow groups to work against some of the early efforts? Yes, that’s true. But there’s nothing, there’s nothing illegal about that,” McCoy said. “We were looking out for our investments. We were looking out for our shareholders.”
He also claimed he had lobbied several key senators to oppose climate change measures in President Joe Biden’s infrastructure and jobs legislation. He went on to list 11 senators who were key to Exxon’s lobbying effort — 5 Republicans and 6 Democrats.
McCoy singled out Democratic senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, calling him a “king maker” because his vote can decide the fate of any proposed legislation in the evenly divided Senate. Manchin is also chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. According to Yahoo, McCoy said he speaks with Manchin’s staff every week.
The other senators named are Republicans John Barrasso, John Cornyn, Steve Daines, Shelley Moore Capito, and Marco Rubio, along with Democrats Chris Coons, Maggie Hassan, Mark Kelly, Kyrsten Sinema, and Jon Tester. Coons is important because he replaced Joe Biden in the Senate when Biden became president and is reportedly very close to the president.
McCoy claimed Exxon is only saying it supports a carbon tax instead of carbon reduction mandates because it makes the company look like it cares about climate change. But it knows a carbon tax is highly unlikely to become law and so the odds are very much against any carbon tax.
“I will tell you, there is not an appetite for a carbon tax. It is a non-starter. Nobody is going to propose a tax on all Americans,” McCoy said. “And the cynical side of me says, ‘Yeah, we kind of know that.’ But it gives us a talking point. We can say, ‘Well, what is ExxonMobil for? Well, we’re for a carbon tax.’”
Just last month, the Senate stripped out many of the climate change provisions in Biden’s proposed infrastructure legislation. “If you lower that threshold, you stick to highways and bridges, then a lot of the negative stuff starts to come out,” McCoy said. “Why would you put in something on emissions reductions on climate change to oil refineries in a highway bill?”
Feeling more than a little full of himself, McCoy couldn’t help but brag about how the lobbying process works and how successful his efforts have been. “You want to be able to go to the chief… and say we need Congressman So-and-So to be able to either introduce this bill, we need him to make a floor statement, we need him to send a letter,” McCoy said. “You name it, we’ve asked for everything.”
In a statement to Channel 4 News in the UK, which first published the recording with McCoy, ExxonMobil said its “lobbying efforts fully comply with all laws and are publicly disclosed on a quarterly basis.”
After the McCoy tape became public, ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods released a statement, saying McCoy’s statements “in no way represent the company’s position on a variety of issues, including climate policy and our firm commitment that carbon pricing is important to addressing climate change. The individuals interviewed were never involved in developing the company’s policy positions on the issues discussed.
“We condemn the statements and are deeply apologetic for them, including comments regarding interactions with elected officials. They are entirely inconsistent with the way we expect our people to conduct themselves. We were shocked by these interviews and stand by our commitments to working on finding solutions to climate change.”
That leaves us to either believe that McCoy is an inveterate liar who can’t resist puffing up his own nefarious deeds to soothe his diminished ego or that he has pulled the curtain back on how business and politics actually work together in America to soft-pedal the most serious challenge to human existence since the dawn of recorded history.
Do we believe McCoy or Woods? Given ExxonMobil’s proven track record of hushing up the findings of its own scientists for decades about the looming danger of a warming planet and the role fossil fuels have played in that process, it is very, very hard to think Darren Woods is not being disingenuous as he beats his breast and pretends ignorance of any improper behavior by his minions.
Ultimately, it makes little difference what you and I think. But it does reinforce once again how the corporate world — especially fossil fuel companies — have kidnapped the US government and induced it to do its bidding, all in the name of perpetual growth and constant profits. If things continue as they are, the chances of avoiding a climactic cataclysm are virtually nil.