A Frank Take

Precious Are My Fossil Fuels

One entity perfectly defines corporate greed


Gollum makes sure to get his. (istock)

While history — if humankind survives to record it — will have a limitless supply of villains to blame the climate crisis on, from groveling politicians to gluttonous CEOs, there is only one Gollum: ExxonMobil, the cabal’s greediest and most despicable agent.

As the world’s largest investor-owned oil company, ExxonMobil is among the top contributors to climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions. The fossil fuel behemoth is also the industry’s leading purveyor of lies and arrogance.

In late February the multinational corporation’s chief executive, Darren Woods, told Fortune that the public is to blame for the fact the world isn’t on track to meet its climate goals. He spewed that Big Oil isn’t primarily responsible for the climate crisis. The real issue, he retched, is that the transition to cleaner energy may prove too expensive for consumers’ liking. His industry has been regurgitating that claim for years, even as renewable energy prices have continued to decrease. The price of solar power, for instance, has fallen by 80% since 2010, according to the World Economic Forum.

“We have opportunities to make fuels with lower carbon in it, but people aren’t willing to spend the money to do that,” he told Fortune.

Woods’ compensation rose 52% to $35.9 million in 2022 — the highest percentage increase among his greedy peers — as the oil-and-methane goliath enjoyed record profits. His net worth is estimated to be at least $132 million. (Meanwhile, the median pay for an ExxonMobil worker reportedly fell 9% from 2021 to 2022.)

“The dirty secret nobody talks about is how much all this is going to cost and who’s willing to pay for it,” he continued in his Fortune screed. “The people who are generating those emissions need to be aware of and pay the price for generating those emissions. That is ultimately how you solve the problem.”

Woods is talking about us, the people his industry has relentlessly lied to about the dangers of its polluting products. My two-word response is likely on the tip of your tongue as well.

His pompous demeanor is nauseating, and dangerous. It perfectly exemplifies our poisonous culture of self-interest that is destroying life. He got his, so screw everyone else. Blame us for your sleazy transgressions. The fossil fuel way includes lying about how much it will cost to decarbonize the economy.

His priority — beyond himself — are the shareholders, unless, of course, those investors want ExxonMobil to slash climate emissions. Investors in publicly traded companies often attempt to shape corporate policy by filing shareholder proposals that are voted on at annual meetings. ExxonMobil apparently is fed up with a pair of investor groups that it claims, ironically, are abusing the system by filing similar proposals annually in an effort to micromanage Woods’ piggy bank.

The micromanaging the corporation’s executives are worried about is the investors’ call for the company to reduce dangerous climate emissions. ExxonMobil’s lawsuit reportedly points to growing tensions between companies and activist investors calling for corporations to do more to reduce their climate impact.

Those same executives, however, don’t even flinch when their products threaten public health and environmental well-being. Woods and his rapacious ilk never mention those costs.

An ExxonMobil gas station in the Burrillville village of Pascoag poisoned people and a public water supply more than two decades ago. The well remains closed, likely forever. The $430 billion corporation, after dragging the case out in court, eventually agreed last year to pay a $6 million fine.

During his recent appearance on Fortune’s Leadership Next podcast, Woods, ExxobMobil’s CEO since the first day of 2017, defended his corporation’s continued focus on oil and methane, rather than renewables. He began the interview by describing ExxonMobil, which for much of its existence has been the world’s largest fossil fuel company, as a “technology company” that just happens “to focus on hydrogen and carbon molecules.”

What a condescending piece of coprolite.

In 2021, during an appearance before Congress, Woods declined to make a pledge to stop lobbying against climate initiatives. A year later, he was named one of the country’s top climate villains by The Guardian, after “Exxon lobbyists were captured on video revealing the company’s efforts to obstruct climate legislation in Congress.”

Nothing else matters to ExxonMobil executives than pure profit. (istock)

ExxonMobil (EM) was one of the first fossil fuel companies to become aware of climate change, five decades ago. It has since spent millions spreading climate denial while simultaneously contributing the fourth-largest amount of carbon emissions of any investor-owned company in the world.

Projections created internally by EM beginning in the late 1970s on the impact of fossil fuels on the climate were extremely accurate, even surpassing those of some academic and governmental scientists, according to a 2023 analysis published in Science by a team of Harvard University-led researchers.

Despite its own calculations, the energy giant continued to sow doubt about the growing emergency, according to “Assessing ExxonMobil’s global warming projections.”

The researchers discovered EM had created a series of remarkably reliable models projecting global warming from carbon dioxide emissions. EM researchers projected that fossil fuel emissions would lead to 0.20 degrees Celsius of global warming per decade — a trend that has been proven mostly accurate.

The study’s authors used established Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change statistical techniques to test the performance of EM’s models. They found that, depending on the metric used, 63% to 83% of the global warming projections reported by EM scientists were consistent with actual temperatures.

Furthermore, EM’s projections had an average “skill score” of 72%, plus or minus 6%. A skill score relates to how well a forecast compares to what happens in reality. For comparison, NASA scientist James Hansen’s global warming predictions presented to Congress in 1988 had scores from 38% to 66%.

Another trend that has emerged since the late ’70s is that fossil fuel executives continuously mislead the public about the industry’s role in the climate crisis and they relentlessly try to discredit those, such as Hansen, who push back against their lies.

EM was aware of climate change as early as 1977, according to a 2015 investigation by Inside Climate News. In fact, EM didn’t just understand the science, the corporation actively engaged with it. In the ’70s and ’80s it employed top scientists to look into the issue and launched its own research program that sampled carbon dioxide and built rigorous climate models. It even spent more than $1 million on a project that examined how much carbon dioxide is absorbed by the oceans.

In its eight-month investigation, Inside Climate News reporters interviewed former EM employees, scientists, and federal officials and analyzed hundreds of pages of internal documents. They found that the company’s knowledge of climate change dates back to July 1977, when senior scientist James Black delivered an urgent message about the issue.

“In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” Black told Exxon’s management committee, according to “Exxon: The Road Not Taken.”

Black later warned that doubling greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would increase global temperatures by 2 or 3 degrees. He continued to warn, according to Inside Climate News, that “present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to 10 years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.”

He was paid to be ignored, because what he found shareholders didn’t like. Since then, EM has solidified itself as a leader in the ever-changing campaigns of climate confusion. By 1989, the lying giant had helped create the Global Climate Coalition, a vocal industry group opposed to policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and tasked with questioning the science behind climate change.

The coalition disbanded in 2002, but its tactics are used today by the the American Petroleum Institute and the National Association of Manufacturers, among others.

EM also helped prevent the United States from signing the 1997 international treaty on climate known as the Kyoto Protocol, designed to control greenhouse gases.

In 2015 the Union of Concerned Scientists released its own industry investigation, the Climate Deception Dossiers. The 56-page document includes a memorandum from a coalition of fossil fuel corporations where they pledge to essentially launch a big communications effort to sow doubt. The campaign would achieve “victory,” according to the memo, when “average citizens” believed the realities of climate science were uncertain.

A team convened by the American Petroleum Institute — the country’s largest fossil fuel trade group whose member companies include EM, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Shell — outlined a “roadmap” for climate deception including a plan to cultivate purportedly independent scientists as climate liars, according to the Climate Deception Dossiers.

Criminal, but only if you protest the corporations and banks investing in fossil fuels.

Frank Carini can be reached at [email protected]. His opinions don’t reflect those of ecoRI News.


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  1. True, Woods and his ilk are cynical and despicable. But he is right about one thing: people will fight sacrificing some of their well-being for future persons—even their own children and grandchildren. Not even counting the rest of non-human life on this planet. Look at how little Congress has done. We are a selfish and destructive species.

  2. OK Frank, you didn’t like me contradicting you a a bit. But like Pogo famously said, “the enemy is us.” Why do you think Congress has done so little on climate change.? Because they’d have a hard time getting re-elected. And when things get really tough and obvious, it’ll be too late to catch up. Look how behind China we are in nuclear power technology, e.g. Generation 4 designs. When everyone has an EV there won’t be the electricity.

  3. Thank you Frank for reminding us on the most greedy and despicable fossil fuel companies, the ones who lead them and the enormous harm they have caused our planet. They continue to double down on getting more dirty oil and gas projects started in the era of non-action in Washington.

    Organizations like Climate Defiance are confronting these oil companies face to face and calling them out for their past and present destruction of our ecosystems. It’s a start, but millions/billions more people need to engage these criminals now, not 2, 3, 5 years from now. Stop using the banks that fund big oil (Citi bank is a big one). Stop investing in companies that support big oil. Invest in new innovative energy companies with no ties to big oil. Convery to heat pump and solar technology for residential and commercial usage. There are so many advantages of this technology, including lower utility costs and energy independence.

    No one wants Cat 5 or 6 (this may be a new category soon) to hit us in the Northeast and I hope they never happen. This is not the wake up call we want, but it may just jolt the masses out of complacency and into massive action towards renewable energy and lower consumption.

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