Contrary to prevalent accusations by the climate-crisis crowd to discredit skeptical challenges, major petroleum companies do not presently constitute a driving force behind efforts to debunk alarmist myths.
Nor are they conspiring to undermine “alternative energy” markets advocated by powerful green lobbies and subsidy rent-seekers.
Such hands-off policies have little to do with scientific considerations, and much to do with what they regard to be sound business decisions. And while individual corporate circumstances vary, company responses have been conditioned by a changing political scene common to all.
Of course, the oil and gas industry has not always been disengaged from the climate issue.
Companies became highly actively involved following the Clinton-Gore election which evidenced strong hostility towards fossil energy in the form of a proposed BTU tax, which was soundly defeated with support from a united and well-funded industry coalition.
Participants included small businesses, the agricultural sector, building trades, manufacturers, and even social service organizations representing poor clients who rely upon affordable gasoline and heating fuel. Republicans took control of the House for the first time in decades one year later in 1994.
This might be regarded to be a teachable moment. As the great English writer Samuel Johnson observed, “There is nothing like a hanging to concentrate the mind.”
Most oil and gas companies rallied against another big Clinton-Gore climate alarm-premised push in the late 1990s for U.S. participation in a U.N.-sponsored Kyoto CO2 cap-and-trade agreement. Shell’s U.K./Dutch management went along with the plan despite fierce objections from Shell USA’s CEO Phil Carroll.
Enron was another aggressive Kyoto advocate. Although now defunct and disgraced, they then had powerful Clinton-Gore connections and perceived the cap-and-trade program as a prospective windfall boon to their vast natural gas pipeline holdings in competition with cheaper but higher CO2-emitting coal.
An internal memorandum stated that Kyoto would “do more to promote Enron's business than almost any other regulatory initiative outside the restructuring [of] the energy and natural gas industries in Europe and the United States.”
The broader U.S. petroleum industry viewed things very differently. Of all CEOs who resisted, none drove efforts to combat alarmist pseudoscience more effectively than Exxon’s Lee Raymond who commissioned an internal research program to determine exactly what was and was not known about any climate change threats and possible human influences.
Raymond was joined in efforts to challenge huge and scientifically unwarranted economic Kyoto costs by Mobil CEO Lou Noto and the American Petroleum Institute, a counteroffensive which continued after the two corporations merged in 2000.
Together with the API, ExxonMobil began working with Sens. Byrd and Hagel to pass a resolution (SR-98) that placed severe conditions on any Senate Kyoto approval.
Unanimous Senate passage virtually ensured that the U.S. would not ratify the new treaty.
Lee Raymond’s leadership on such a volatile issue is a bold exception. Managers of giant companies — oil companies included — generally consist of timid organization people who are disinclined to go up against powerful politicians or risk being branded by ruthless, mega-financed activists as an enemy of the environment.
ExxonMobil’s finger-to-hotplate public image hypersensitivity dates back to the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, just as BP experienced following its 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.
In 2002 ExxonMobil contributed $100 million to Stanford University’s Global Climate and Energy Project to promote breakthrough developments in technologies, which include high-efficiency energy, CO2 storage, and bioenergy such as ethanol.
This and other attempts to buy immunity from hostile attacks, including those by BP, have gone nowhere. The industry continues to be whipping boy No. 1.
Incidentally, Koch Industries, another company that environmental activists love to hate, is a substantial renewable energy investor.
Its subsidiaries, Flint Hill Renewables and Koch Supply & Trading, own several ethanol plants in Iowa, and together with the company’s Minnesota refinery, have the capacity to supply about one-tenth of the U.S. market.
As Flint Hill President Brad Razook explained in a company newsletter, “New or emerging markets, such as renewable fuels, are an opportunity for us to create value within rules the government sets.”
Is there any wonder then why oil and gas companies are lying low on the climate front even if they know there is no scientific justification for alarm?
Why would they choose to publicly challenge the foundational basis for the Obama administration’s war on coal (aka “Clean Power Plan”), thereby incurring the wrath of the EPA and an alphabet soup of other eager regulators?
Through little fault of the oil and gas industry, high costs of corrupted science and crony capitalist free market interference get passed on to taxpayers and ratepayers. A carbon tax premised upon the same overheated climate nonsense will add to these avoidable burdens, with only ourselves to blame.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of “Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom”(2015) and “Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax” (2012). Read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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