October 23, 2016

For Exxon-Mobil, human survival is just not economic

An article by Edward Goldsmith and Simon Retallack for the Doomsday Funbook (Jon Carpenter Books, February 2006).

Written in March 1997, it was updated on 22 November 2002.

See ordering information for the Funbook.

International attempts to control climate change have been a primary target for corporate lobbyists. Their aim throughout has been to delay, damage and, if at all possible, destroy the rather feeble measures that have been proposed.

Perhaps the most damaging response has come from oil industry chiefs like Lee Raymond, President of Exxon-Mobil, now one of the three largest corporations on the planet. He has been travelling around the developing world telling the governments of countries like China that if they want to continue to attract inward investment from corporations such as his own, they should not participate in the international treaty process on climate change.

Lee Raymond and Lucio A. Noto (who was once President of the Mobil Corporation, with which Exxon has since merged), together with the heads of other oil corporations, wrote a letter on 8 July 8 1996 to the then president Bill Clinton, on the subject of the proposed negotiations on post 2000 climate change commitments that the State Department was about to involve itself in.

“We are deeply concerned”, Raymond and his colleagues wrote “that such negotiations may lead to premature agreements that will severely disadvantage the US economy and US competitiveness, simply to meet an arbitrary deadline.”

For the oil companies nothing must be done that would “cost US jobs, retard economic growth, or damage US competitiveness.” And this meant adopting “optimum strategies that are economically sound, comprehensive, market-based, and that can be adjusted over time as new data and technologies become available.”

The then President was further urged to assure that the US negotiators “recognize that the unique needs of the US economy are of the utmost priority, and adopt a negotiating position that protects US interests.” The President was instructed that “Proposals had to be judged with respect to their cost-effectiveness and economic, social, and international competitiveness”. None of the three protocols which were on the negotiating table, Clinton was warned, satisfied these requirements.

Today, under the Bush administration, with half of its leading members having been recruited from the oil industry, a veritable paradise has been created for the oil industry, faithfully reflected in Vice-President Cheney’s energy budget, which, it appears, was partly at least the work of Kenneth Lay, the now disgraced President of Enron.

The budget shamefully increased funding for research on coal by 800 percent reduced subsidies on renewable energies by 27 percent and made little or no contribution towards increasing energy efficiency – even though this would cut costs for US industry, making it correspondingly more competitive on the global market. One would have thought that this would have been the overriding priority of the business-orientated Bush administration, but it must be clear that the main concern of those who drew up the energy budget was simply to sell more oil – regardless of social, ecological, or climatic consequences.

However, the oil industry outdid itself in preventing any serious discussion of climate change at the Johannesburg summit. This time they acted via corporate controlled political institutions, such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) most of which are partly at least funded by Exxon Mobil. These called on President Bush not to attend the summit himself, and to ensure that his negotiators prevented any progress on climate change. In a letter dated August 2nd 2002 they applaud the President’s decision not to attend the summit in person:

“Even more than the Earth Summit in Rio, the Johannesburg Summit will provide a global media stage for many of the most irresponsible and destructive elements involved in critical international economic and environmental issues. Your presence would only help to publicize and make more credible various anti-freedom, anti-people, anti-globalization, and anti-Western agendas.”

“In any case”, they added, “global warming is the least important environmental issue”. For Lee Raymond and his colleagues, the immediate interests of the oil industry are all that matter. Clearly nothing must be allowed to get in their way, as they had already made clear to Bill Clinton, not even the survival of the human species.


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