Fossil Fuel Execs Say One Thing, Their Lobbyists Say Another

You may have seen recent comments by Big Oil executives conceding the reality of climate change, and recommending a carbon fee as the best solution to climate change. ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson told his shareholder meeting, "Our valuation of those [policy] alternatives suggests that a carbon tax is the most efficient way to implement policy design to influence behavior." Suzanne McCarron, ExxonMobil vice president of public and government affairs, wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "When governments are considering policy options, ExxonMobil believes a revenue-neutral carbon tax is the most effective way to manage carbon emissions." You may have seen even the infamous Charles Koch accept the reality of human-caused climate change. Koch Industries director of environment, health and safety, Sheryl Corrigan, said at a public event, "I think Charles has said the climate is changing. So the climate is changing. I think he's also said, and we believe, that humans have a part in that."

You may have concluded, "Well, if even ExxonMobil and the Kochs are saying that kind of thing, we must be getting close to a solution." If you did, you would be mistaken. We still need to keep the pressure on against these adversaries.

The problem is that the corporations and political lobbying armadas run by these individuals have not been brought into line with those statements. Indeed, the corporations and political muscle these men control fight aggressively to oppose any action consistent with their recent statements. The statements are window dressing; down on the gun decks, the orders are the opposite.

The proof of this was stark in the vote today in the House expressing opposition to any carbon tax. The American Petroleum Institute, the key lobbying presence of Exxon Mobil and the oil industry, came out for a vote against any carbon tax. "We've had a long history opposing carbon taxes," American Petroleum Institute spokesman Eric Wohlschlegel said when asked about the vote. Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC, sent a letter to every member of Congress lobbying for the anti-carbon tax resolution: "We thank Majority Whip Scalise and House Leadership for bringing this issue to the House floor and we encourage all lawmakers to join them in support of this resolution." Given the political heft of the Koch Brothers' electioneering operation, no one in Congress sees such a letter as friendly advice. Indeed the Koch Brothers' prime political front group, Americans for Prosperity, has threatened "political peril" for those who cross them on climate; that they will be "severely disadvantaged."

And it's not just a matter of lobbying by Big Oil and the Koch operation on how Republicans ought to vote; given their control over the Republican Party, it is very likely that the vote itself was brought up at their behest.

The good news in this charade is that these CEO polluters at least see the need for window dressing. It's a signal that even in their social and business circles, they were beginning to feel like pariahs. The problem they face now is that their lobbying and electioneering muscle belies the window dressing. Not only is their business model unsustainable, but in the modern media and social media environment it is hard to sell window dressing that is so transparently false. Their lying is unsustainable. Consumers recognize, and don't like, corporate lying. Something is going to have to give.