Corporations have a long and shady track record of hiding critical information from the public. For years, tobacco companies hid the science that showed cigarettes caused cancer. Recently, executives at the American Peanut Company allowed salmonella-tainted peanuts to enter the food supply, which killed nine and sickened over 700 others. Now, the Los Angeles Times and Inside Climate News are reporting that oil giant ExxonMobil sat on decades worth of studies that indicated fossil fuels were killing the planet -- and then spent millions to cover it up.
The Times and Inside Climate News are reporting that ExxonMobil's own researchers were aware of the devastating climate impact of fossil fuel extraction and consumption as far back as 1981. According to the Times one of Exxon's scientists told company executives in 1992 that "potential global warming can only help lower exploration and development costs" in the Arctic region.
Maybe that's why ExxonMobil has spent $31 million since 1998 to fund climate denier think tanks and politicians, while keeping its research out of the hands of the concerned public. It's no leap to wonder if the company -- the largest fracking company in the U.S. -- is doing the same thing to mislead and deceive the public around fracking safety.
The oil and gas industry's spin machine has worked for years to ensure that fracking -- an extreme form of fossil fuel extraction -- has a place in the future energy mix. The industry spent at least $721 million in 2014 pushing its fossil fuel agenda in Washington, D.C. The industry's aggressive lobbying and the inclusion of fossil fuels in the Obama administration's climate action plan cannot be a coincidence.
Despite the Obama administration's endorsement of increased natural gas and oil, fossil fuels are an undeniable threat to our planet, communities and collective future. Studies show that the process of drilling, fracking, processing and transporting natural gas releases a tremendous amount of methane into the air. Methane is 87 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame.
The reckless quest to squeeze every last bit of oil and gas from the planet, consequences be damned, is a stark symbol of our broken democracy, and what happens when corporations have too much power over the decisions that guide our lives. And when it comes to fracking safety, Exxon has shown its hand: it is not to be trusted -- nor is the larger industry -- when it comes to our health and the fate of our planet.
We must do all we can to hold these mega corporations accountable for their destructive actions. That's why we're joining the call for the Department of Justice to investigate Exxon's deception. Like the tobacco companies before them, the oil and gas industry must be brought to justice if they indeed played the public and policymakers for fools for so long on an issue so central to our survival.
This piece was originally posted at foodandwaterwatch.org.