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Where Will America Find Corporate Citizenship When She Needs It Most?

Posted on | November 22, 2016 | No Comments

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Mike Magee

We live in a world of false narratives – where words lose their meaning – and therefore their predictive value. Appeals to be open-minded compete with requests for vigilance. One would like to believe that sanity will prevail, but if that were routinely true, we would not need checks and balances.

In America, we rely on counter-balancing branches of government; on separation of church and state; on a free enterprise system constrained from over-reaching by rules and regulations. And when all else fails, we pray for active citizenship from our leaders in and out of government, our communities, ourselves

In the news today, on full display competing for space with Trump Tower and the rest, was a battle of giants: the Rockefeller Foundation (begun way way in the age of Standard Oil by the original Rockefeller himself) vs. ExxonMobil – documented climate denier in chief for the past three decades, with a play book right out of Big Tobacco. With our new President poised to appoint a “climate denier” as head of the EPA, a guy who is anxious to crush the Paris Accord, likely well-supported by the new President ready to “bring coal back”, it’s tempting to believe that our elective leaders have be “asleep at the switch”, paralyzed, incompetent.

But that too is a false narrative. Our leaders have been trying, and at times working across the aisle, to bring progress and security to our nation. And the press has been doing its job too. But, when you are up against the likes of ExxonMobil, it’s a tough order. Still, there is the truth and there is a record, in this case well-documented collusion dating back to the 80’s. But there’s also the issue of Breitbart News, with its head now perched firmly on the top of our political body. And yet, there is a letter, now a decade old, penned in black and white by a Republican and a Democratic Senator, to Rex W. Tillerson in 2006, a year after he assumed the role of CEO of the giant company. It’s worth a read – that’s why it’s printed in full below. It tells the truth, just as clearly as the cast of “Hamilton” did the other night in their respectful, but direct, appeals to our incoming Vice-President.

Here’s the letter from Senators Jay Rockefeller IV(D-WV) and Olympia Snowe(R-MA) dated  October 27, 2006:

Dear Mr. Tillerson:

       Allow us to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your first year as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the ExxonMobil Corporation. You will become the public face of an undisputed leader in the world energy industry, and a company that plays a vital role in our national economy. As that public face, you will have the ability and responsibility to lead ExxonMobil toward its rightful place as a good corporate and global citizen.

       We are writing to appeal to your sense of stewardship of that corporate citizenship as U.S.  Senators concerned about the credibility of the United States in the international community, and as Americans concerned that one of our most prestigious corporations has done much in the past to adversely affect that credibility. We are convinced that ExxonMobil’s longstanding support of a small cadre of global climate change skeptics, and those skeptics’ access to and influence on government policymakers, have made it increasingly difficult for the United States to demonstrate the moral clarity and needs across all facets of its diplomacy.

       Obviously, other factors complicate our foreign policy. However we are persuaded that the climate change denial strategy carried out by and for ExxonMobil has help foster the perception that the United States is insensitive to a matter of great urgency for all of mankind, and has thus damaged the stature of our nation internationally. It is our hope that under your leadership, Exxon Mobil would end its dangerous support of the “deniers.” Likewise, we look to you to guide ExxonMobil to capitalize on it significant resources and prominent industry position to assist this country in taking its appropriate leadership role in promoting the technological innovation necessary to address climate change and in fashioning a truly global solution to what is undeniably a global problem

       While ExxonMobil’s activity in this area as well-documented, we are somewhat encouraged by developments that have come to light during your brief tenure. We fervently hope the reports at ExxonMobil intends to end its funding of the climate change denial campaign of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) are true. Similarly we have seen press reports that your British subsidiary has told the Royal Society, Great Britain’s foremost scientific academy, that ExxonMobil will stop funding other organizations with similar purposes.

However,  a casual review of available literature, as performed by personnel for the Royal Society reveals that ExxonMobil is or has been the primary funding source for the “skepticism” of not only CEI, but for dozens of other overlapping an interlocking front groups sharing the same obfuscation agenda. For this reason, we share the goal of the Royal Society that Exxon Mobil “come clean” about its past denial activites and that the corporation take positive steps by a date certain toward a new and more responsible corporate citizenship

        Exxon Mobil is not alone in jeopardizing the credibility and stature of the United States. Large corporations in related industries have joined ExxonMobil to provide significant and consistent financial support of this pseudo-scientific, non-peer  reviewed echo chamber. The goal has not been to prevail in the scientific debate, but to obscure it. This climate change denial confederacy has exerted an influence out of all proportion to its size or relative scientific credibility. Through relentless pressure on the media to present the issue “objectively” and by challenging the consensus on climate change science by missstating both the nature of what “consensus” means and what this particular consensus is, ExxonMobil and it’s allies have confused the public and given cover to a few senior elected and appointed government officials who’s positions in opinions enable them to damage U.S. credibility abroad.

        Climate change denial has been so effective because the “denial community” has mischaracterized the necessarily guarded language of serious scientific dialogue as vagueness and uncertainty. Mainstream media outlets, attacked for being biased, help lend credence to skeptics views, regardless of their scientific integrity, by giving them relatively equal standing with legitimate scientists. ExxonMobil is responsible for much of this bogus scientific “debate” and the demand for what the deniers cynically refer to as “sound science.”

        A study to be released in November by an American scientific group will expose ExxonMobil as the primary funder of no fewer than 29 climate change denial font groups in 2004 alone. Besides a shared goal, these groups often featured common staffs and board members. The study will estimate that ExxonMobil is been more than $19 million since the late 1990s on a strategy of “information laundering” or enabling a small group of professional skeptics working through scientific-sounding organizations, funnel their viewpoints through non-peer reviewed website such as Tech Central Station. The Internet has provided ExxonMobil the means to wreak its have a con U.S. credibility, while avoiding the rigors of refereed journals.  While deniers can easily post something calling into question the scientific consensus on climate change, not a single refereed article in more than a decade has sought to refute it.

       Indeed, while the group of outliers funded by ExxonMobil has had some success in the court of public opinion, it has failed miserably in confusing, much less convincing, the legitimate scientific community. Rather, what has emerged and continues to withstand the carefully crafted denial strategy is an insurmountable scientific consensus on both the problem and causation of climate change. Instead of the narrow and inward-looking universe of the deniers, the legitimate scientific community has developed its views on climate change through rigorous peer-reviewed research and writing across all climate related disciplines and in virtually every country on the globe.

       Where   most   scientists’   dispassionate   review   of   the   facts   has   moved   past acknowledgment to mitigation strategies ExxonMobil’s contribution the overall politicization of science has merely bolster the views of U.S. government officials satisfied to do nothing. Rather than investing in the development of technologies that might see us through the crisis- and which may rival the computer is the wellspring of near-term economic growth around the world, ExxonMobil and its partners in denial have manufactured controversy, sown doubt, and impeded your progress with strategies all-too reminiscent of those used by the tobacco industry for so many years. The net result of this unfortunate campaign has been a diminution of this nation’s ability to act internationally, and not only in the environmental matters.

       In light of the adverse impact still resulting from the corporation’s activities, we must request at ExxonMobil end any further assistance or other support to groups or individuals whose public advocacy has contributed to the small, but unfortunately effective, climate change denial myth. Further, we believe ExxonMobil should take additional steps to improve the public debate, and consequently the reputation of the United States. We would recommend that ExxonMobil publicly knowledge about the reality of climate change and the role of humans in causing or exacerbating it. Second, ExxonMobil should repudiate its climate change denial campaign and make public its funding history. Finally, we believe that there would be   a   benefit   to   the  United  States   if   one   of   the   worlds   largest   carbon   emitters headquartered here devoted at least some of the money it has invested in climate change denial pseudo-science to global remediation efforts. We believe this would be especially important in the developing world, where the disastrous effects of global climate change are likely to have their most immediate and calamitous impacts.

Each of us is committed to seeing the United States officially reengage and  demonstrate leadership on the issue of global climate change. We are ready to work with you and any other past corporate sponsor of the denial campaign on proactive strategies to promote energy efficiency, to expand the use of clean, alternative, and renewable fuels, to accelerate innovation to responsibly  extend  a  useful  life  of  our  fossil  fuel  reserves,  and to  foster  greater understanding of the necessity of action on a truly global global scale before it is too late.

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Cc.

J Steven Simon
Walter Shipley
Samuel J Palmisano
Marilyn Carlson Nelson
Henry A. McKinnell Jr.
Philip E Lippincott
William R.Lowell
James R. Houghton
Michael J. Boskin
William W. George

The corporate leaders were copied here, I suppose, in the hopes that they fairly consider the country’s long term interests. I am still hopeful that those who remain, and those who have followed, will represent the finest of Corporate Citizenship, and actively consider their individuals roles as “citizens” in this brand new world.

                                                                                                         

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