Trump just picked ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his nominee for Secretary of State. The State Department handles nearly all of our foreign policy, including our engagement in the international climate process. It also approves international fossil fuel projects, like the Keystone XL pipeline, which will be back on the table once Trump is sworn in.
Handing over the State Department to the CEO of the world's largest oil company to the world's largest oil company is like giving Voldemort the keys to Hogwarts. Some of the media is reporting that Tillerson might not be so bad for climate policy because at least he believes in global warming, unlike Trump or some of his other nominees like Scott Pruitt, his pick for EPA. Don't believe the hype. ExxonMobil's "support" for the Paris Agreement and a price on carbon is nothing but good old fashioned greenwashing.
While Exxon says it "supports" the Paris Climate Agreement, it's also been careful to say that it only "acknowledges" the targets in the deal. That's code for "we have no intention of meeting them." Anyone who has looked at Exxon's own energy assessments knows that's the unvarnished truth. Exxon's business plan relies on the world blowing past 1.5°C and 2.0°C of warming. The company's share price is directly tied to its ability to burn through all of its oil and gas reserves, something that would be impossible if countries got serious about addressing the climate crisis.
As for supporting a price on carbon, Exxon adopted that position under extreme duress back when it looked like a climate bill might actually pass through Congress. It was a move designed to get them in the room so that they could weaken the proposed legislation. When you look closely, all of the numbers that Exxon puts forward for a carbon price are so low that the only impact would be to help Exxon corner the market on natural gas (Exxon is already the largest natural gas producer in the United States). They're not interested in preventing global warming, they're interested in profiting from it.
That's why Exxon continues to fund front groups that spread climate denial and lobby against renewable energy legislation. It's something they've done for decades. As the #ExxonKnew campaign has highlighted, Exxon scientists were warning the company as early as the 1970's that the production of the fossil fuels could lead to catastrophic global warming. Instead of warning the public, Exxon executives buried the truth and launched a massive misinformation campaign using the same tactics as Big Tobacco.
Now, Exxon is facing multiple investigations and lawsuits because of history of funding denial. If the company is found guilty of lying to its shareholders about the threat global warming posed to its business plan, it could be convinced of fraud and would face massive liabilities. Just like the mob, Exxon could also be convicted of racketeering charges for working with other oil companies to spread misinformation and continuing to promote the use of fossil fuels and blocking the spread of renewables.
All of this dirty history should come to light now that Trump has nominated Tillerson as Secretary of State. The nomination process will give Senators a chance to put ExxonMobil on trial, just as they did with Big Tobacco. If Tillerson is forced to admit the truth about Exxon's history of denial, it could have massive repercussions for the company. If he lies about it under oath, he may get away with it for the time being, but it would come back to haunt him and the oil industry, just like it did with the cigarette companies.
Either way, the fight is on. Even after Voldemort took over the Ministry of Magic and marched through the halls of Hogwarts, Harry Potter and his crew fought back. With Trump and ExxonMobil attempting to grab the reins of power, we've got to show that people all across this country are ready to take them on. Time to get to work.
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General Election: Nov 3, 2020
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