Exxon lobbyists caught on video in Greenpeace sting, CEO apologizes

An Exxon government agency official compared lobbying to catching lawmakers like fish, admitting that the company’s carbon tax support is primarily for the show and in a video captured by a UK Greenpeace activist posing as a recruiter , unlikely to produce results.

Why it matters: The comments Greenpeace released on Wednesday – despite being offered on false pretenses – offer an unfiltered look at the views of two Exxon lobbyists. They also resulted in a notable public apology from Exxon CEO Darren Woods, who insisted that they do not reflect Exxon’s positions.

  • But it’s still a new problem for the oil giant, which is already under pressure to take a more aggressive stance on climate change.
  • It also carries risks for the White House, which is working to keep a bipartisan infrastructure package intact while satisfying progressives who want more aggressive action on climate change.

Driving the news: In the videos broadcast by UK broadcaster Channel 4, Keith McCoy, executive director of federal relations, said the Greenpeace activist who recorded the discussion that supporting a carbon tax gives Exxon a “talking point”, but it does “Won’t happen”.

  • “[N]Obody is going to propose a tax for all Americans … and the cynical side of me says yes, we kind of know that, but it gives us something to talk about where we can say what ExxonMobil is for a carbon tax, “said he.
  • McCoy says Exxon wants to work with lawmakers to enforce a tax, noting, “Put a bill on and we’ll show you we’re going to support this bill, we’re helping you work on this bill,” but adds : “Nobody wants to do that because it is not politically expedient to raise a tax for the people, it just isn’t.”

Elsewhere he talks about efforts to “engage” them – in relation to members of Congress – in a way that benefits both the company and the legislature.

  • McCoy is referring to Exxon’s interactions with senators including Joe Manchin (D) and Shelley Moore Capito (R), both from West Virginia, to try to influence ongoing infrastructure talks. He also mentions targeting other lawmakers for meetings, including Democratic Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.), Maggie Hassan (NH), Scott Kelly (Ariz.), And Chris Coons (Del.).
  • By transcript Provided by Greenpeace UK, McCoy also cites his easy access to Cedric Richmond, the director of the Office of Public Relations at the White House, and Gina McCarthy, Biden’s top climate adviser.
  • In a separate interview With Greenpeace activist posing as a recruiter, ex-Exxon lobbyist Dan Easley discussed various “gains” from Trump-era policies of trade, permits and corporate tax cuts, “which are likely to be worth billions to Exxon “.

Remarkable: McCoy also delves into the company’s history of funding organizations working to portray climate science as unsettled.

  • “Did we fight aggressively against some science? Yes. Have we hidden our science? Absolutely not, ”said McCoy. “Did we join any of these shadow groups to counter some of the early efforts? Yes that’s true.”

What you say: Woods’ statement said the two lobbyists were not involved in developing Exxon’s political positions discussed in the long-range interviews.

  • “The comments made by individuals in no way reflect the company’s position on a wide variety of issues, including climate policy and our firm commitment that carbon pricing is important to addressing climate change,” he said.
  • But Woods added, “We condemn and deeply apologize for the statements made, including comments on interactions with elected officials.”
  • “We were shocked by these interviews and stand by our commitment to work on solutions to climate change,” he said.
  • McCoy apologized in a statement on LinkedIn. “I am deeply embarrassed by my comments and have taken the liberty of falling for Greenpeace’s deception. My statements clearly do not reflect ExxonMobil’s positions on major political issues.”

What we observe: The impact of the Greenpeace operation on Exxon’s image and climate policy, and the impact on the White House. The comments have already met with criticism.

  • “Today’s tape only proves that we know the industry’s disinformation campaign is alive,” Democratic MP Ro Khanna said in a statement.
  • “They lie about climate science and the role of their products in the climate crisis. They lie about their commitment to climate solutions. And they lie to protect their bottom line, regardless of the catastrophic damage their products continue to do to our planet and everyone on it, “said Richard Wiles, executive director of the Center for Climate Integrity.

Catching up quickly: Exxon has supported a carbon tax for years. You are a member of the Climate Leadership Council, a coalition of business and environmental groups that support a tax that returns revenue to the public.

  • “We believe ExxonMobil’s commitment to fighting climate change is real,” said Alex Flint, director of Alliance for Market Solutions, another tax-friendly group that Exxon supports.

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