Exxon Mobil: Influence / Lobbying

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Lobbying Groups

ExxonMobil does extensive lobbying in Washington themselves. Before the merger of Exxon and Mobil, the New York Times reported that Mobil and Exxon spent $5.3 million and $5.2 million respectively on lobbying [1]. In 1999 it was estimated that ExxonMobil spent $11,695,800 on lobbying. [2]

ExxonMobil spent $5.8 million on the following lobbying firms in 1999: Akin, Gump et al, Cassidy & Assoc, Gardere & Wynne, Mobil Business Resources Corp, and Swidler, Berlin et al. [3]

Below some of the groups that Exxon Mobil is a member of are listed and briefly explained. This is just a very short list, and does not claim to be a comprehensive list of the most important groups.

The oil industry's think-tank, explains that its "most pressing issues revolve about public perceptions and government policies toward our industry -- many of which have international dimensions," [4] one of these issues being climate change. The institute lobbies against any action on climate change that could be perceived as a threat to the petroleum industry, and is extremely sceptical about the science behind climate change. "[T]he debate is about whether enough is known about climate change to warrant the lost jobs, higher consumer prices and a weakened US economy that would come with implementing the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement which at best would make only slight progress toward solving climate change." [5] ExxonMobil is a financial supporter of the API and sits on the board. In 1998, Exxon helped API to plan its $7 million PR campaign to undermine confidence in the scientific consensus about climate change [6]. The API is a member of the Global Climate Coalition (see below).
"The USCIB advances the global interests of American business both at home and abroad. It is the American affiliate of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC) to the OECD, and the International Organisation of Employers (IOE). As such, it officially represents US business positions in the main intergovernmental bodies..." [7]
After Bush's rejection of the Kyoto agreement the USCIB sent him a letter stating, "[we] believe that the US should move quickly to chart a farsighted path forward within the UNFCCC process that will avoid the Kyoto Protocol's unrealistic targets, timetables and lack of developing country participation." [8]
CEFIC actively lobby the EU and at UN climate negotiations for voluntary action as the alternative to government regulation. CEFIC rejects absolute targets being imposed on the chemical industry and threatens to, "relocate to cap-free countries," warning that the end result will not help the environment and will bring massive job losses to the EU. [10]
The Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) is a 'think tank lobby' group supporting corporate interests in the EU. CEPS formed a working group on 'EU Climate Change Policy: Priorities for COP-6' before the COP 6 meeting in Den Haag 2000. The group chaired by BP's Barbara Kuryk aims to steer the EU away from government regulation and towards voluntary initiatives and market-based mechanisms. It also lobbies for binding CO2 reductions to include southern countries.
A climate sceptic organisation, representing a diverse range of US businesses. The GCC argues that, "Unrealistic targets and timetables, such as those called for under the Kyoto Protocol, are not achievable without severely harming the US economy and all American families, workers, seniors and children." [12]
GCC received such heavy criticism that companies such as BP, Ford and Texaco decided to leave it. Exxon however stayed a member until GCC decided that only trade associations were suitable for membership. [13]

Links with government

ExxonMobil

George W. Bush himself is an old Texas oilman. In 1977 he set up the oil company Arbusto Energy (Arbusto is Spanish for 'Bush'). The company was never very successful; it changed name, went through a merger and was bought up. Bush left the oil business in the early 1990s. [14] His close ties to the oil industry were however visible when he as governor let Exxon draft the 'voluntary' emissions reporting system for Texas. [15] (This Clean Air Programme turned out to be utterly ineffective.) [16]

In 2000, ExxonMobil gave $1.2 million to the Republican Party. [17] According to the Center for Responsive Politics, only Enron (a gas and electricity corporation) gave a higher amount of political donations the same year (which makes ExxonMobil the largest oil and gas donor). [18]

Bush's cabinet turned out to contain several persons with links and interests to the oil industry and ExxonMobil. Some have very direct links, such as the under secretary of economic affairs, Kathleen B. Cooper, also Chief Economist and Manager of the Economics and Energy Division of ExxonMobil. Some are not direct links, like Dick Cheney, secretary of state, a former CEO of Halliburton, who shows a predisposition to share the views of the oil industry. The above and below examples are from Multinational Monitor's May 2001 issue ('Bush's Corporate Cabinet').

  • Elaine Chao, secretary of labor, was a distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a right wing think-tank sponsored by (among others) ExxonMobil.
  • Christine Whitmank, environmental protection agency administrator, holds stocks in ExxonMobil and has several economic interests in the oil industry.
  • Donald Evans, secretary of commerce, whose former job was CEO for Tom Brown Inc. (a Denver-based oil and gas company), and has large financial interests in several oil companies.

Among the president's advisors you can also find connections to the oil industry. Lawrence Lindsey, top economic advisor to the president, holds a chair at the American Enterprise Institute, Diana Furchgott-Roth, staff chief to the Council of Economic advisors, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and Nina Rees, adviser to the vice President Cheney is a senior analyst at the Heritage Foundation. Both organisations are sponsored by ExxonMobil.

Esso UK

The most politically engaged aspect of Esso was its former UK chairman and chief executive Keith Taylor. He sat on the Cleaner Vehicles Task Force, and was involved in various higher education policy roles.

Esso's 'Trees of Time and Place' initiative invited MPs to get involved. John Swinney and Andrew Welsh both participated. The Scottish Wildlife Trust is involved in co-ordinating the initiative in Scotland. Paddy Ashdown and John Battle were early joiners.

PR Companies and Greenwash attempts

"ExxonMobil strives to be a good corporate citizen and a good neighbour wherever we do business."
- ExxonMobil's homepage [19]

ExxonMobil likes to point out its great social responsibility and its contributions to the environment. Information about who they sponsor can be found at http://www.exxonmobil.com/community. They also list institutions that they have sponsored, among them several lobby groups and right-wing/conservative think-tanks.

The first sponsorship they mention is their support for tiger conservation. This is an important part of ExxonMobil's image, since the tiger is also the company's mascot. However, one of the greatest threats to the tiger could turn out to be loss of habitat due to stress caused by climate change.

ExxonMobil also give a lot of support to education. Some of this sponsorship has come under criticism for being more promotional material than educational material. The Center for Commercial-Free Public Education writes: "Some teachers were duped by Exxon's lesson plan about the healthy, flourishing wildlife in Prince William Sound, Alaska, which showed beautiful eagles, frolicking sea otters, and sea birds in their habitat. In reality, the program was a public relations vehicle designed to help Exxon clean up its image after the Valdez oil spill." [20]

Below is a sample of the organisations that ExxonMobil supports (full list at http://www.exxonmobil.com/community):

  • The Heritage Foundation (Washington, DC) is an ultra-conservative organisation promoting 'traditional American values', free enterprise, a strong national defence, and drilling in the Arctic wildlife refuge, among other things.
  • The Hoover Institution (Stanford, California) promotes its antipathy against federal social welfare and questions the science behind global warming. Michael J. Boskin (Member of the ExxonMobil board) is a Senior Fellow at the institute.
  • The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research (New York, NY) argues for cuts in welfare, medical and health spending, and for privatisation and deregulation of environmental and consumer protection.

Influencing Research and Education

Worldwide

ExxonMobil invests more than $650 million per year on research and development. [22]

UK

Former Esso UK chairman and chief executive Keith Taylor, according to the Times, personally championed Esso's higher education support scheme and engineering fellowships. He was visiting professor at Surrey University and member of the Higher Education Funding Council for England. [23] The University of Birmingham gave an Honorary Doctor of Engineering to Keith Taylor in early 1997, when he was joint chair of the university's chemical engineering senior advisory group. [24]

Esso uses London Business School to train all graduate recruits, an absolute key to their corporate culture.

All university applicants for the exploration division must attend 8-week summer work experience in Leatherhead, during their last summer vacation. This summer programme has the "full support" of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). [25]

A few miscellaneous connections

  • Esso sponsors fellowships in chemical engineering - these are worth £6000 for the first year, declining over the following four, in return for which Esso expects some of the fellow's time. One of the Esso fellowships was awarded to Dr. David Faraday at Surrey University, who had previously arranged industrial placements for his students with Esso. [26]
  • Professor Graeme Simpson, the first Schlumberger Chair of Energy Industry Management at Aberdeen, was formerly Business Opportunities Group Manager with Esso Exploration and Petroleum UK. [27]
  • Heriot-Watt University has an Esso Teaching Resources Facility, (£15,000 from Esso), which underpins a communications skills module for chemistry undergraduates. [28]
  • Loughborough University was awarded £8,600 by Esso Higher Education Support Scheme for a project to develop computer-based teaching material. [29]
  • The University of Wales, Swansea has an Esso Lecture Theatre in its Department of Engineering.
  • The Geology and Petroleum Geology at Aberdeen University - staff include: Dr. AJ Hartley, the Mobil Lecturer in Production Geoscience; Dr. Tim Reston, the Mobil Lecturer in Structural Geology. There are also research fellows sponsored by Mobil. [31]
  • At the University of Nottingham, Esso offers one bursary of £500 each year to Mechanical Engineering students, and BP £1,500 to Chemical Engineering students, both awarded at the start of the second year and renewable in the final year. [34]

The Greenpeace International report called Exxon Valdez - a case of corporate virtual reality by Andrew Rowell explains how Exxon used three British academics to help explain that Prince William Sound is just fine after the Exxon Valdez accident. See case study below. The full report is available online at: http://www.greenpeace.org/~climate/arctic99/reports/exxon2.pdf

Case Study: The Exxon Valdez spill damage

After the grounding of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker off Alaska in March 1989, Exxon flew three British scientists out to the scene to assess the damage: Prof. Robert Clark (Dept of Zoology, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne), Dr. Paul Kingston (Institute of Offshore Engineering, Heriot-Watt University) and Dr. Jenny Baker (consultant).

Clark, Kingston and Baker released a report in 1990, which argued that, "The overall impact of the oil spill on the environment in Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska is likely to be short-lived." It claimed that, "Animals may accumulate petroleum hydrocarbons while their environment is oily, but they subsequently purge themselves in a relatively short time and return to normal levels. It is important to understand that oil is not like pesticides, mercury and other substances that cannot be metabolised, cannot be excreted, and thus build up in the flesh." [35]

In June 1990, Prof. Clark said, "Oil spills create a big mess. They cause short-term damage, but the long-term effects are nil." [36] In a 1991 article, Clark observed that, "The effects of the cleanup, coupled with the scouring action of winter storms, left the shoreline largely free of oil by the spring of 1990... There is evidence that [the] remaining oil is neither toxic nor harmful." [37] Looking at particular species, Clark notes for example that in 1990, "sea otters are still abundant in the sound and, with their high reproductive rate, can rapidly reverse whatever losses they sustained." Of murres (seabirds), Clark states that in the northeast Atlantic their population has mushroomed despite losses from oil pollution, and he expects the same to be the case in Prince William Sound (PWS). [38]

By contrast, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated in autumn 1992 that 12% of the total oil spilled still remained in sub-tidal sediments, and 3% on the beaches. [39] Rick Steiner, an Associate Professor at the University of Alaska, commented that, "Four years after the spill, oil still remains trapped in mussel mats in the inter-tidal zone, being picked up into the food chain." [40] The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill State/Federal Trustee Council is now sponsoring a research team to find out how much oil is still left. During the summer of 2001, the group could still easily find oil by digging 15 centimetres into the beach. [41] The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustees expect direct damage to wilderness to continue for decades. [42]

An overview of the scientific studies of sea otters reported that, "By late 1991, three findings indicated that chronic damages were limiting recovery of the sea otter population in PWS: patterns of mortality were abnormal when compared to prespill data, surveys showed no increase in abundance, and juvenile survival was low in oiled areas of western PWS." [43] According to the Trustees, by 1993 there was still little or no evidence of recovery of the sea otter population, which may take decades. [44] The number of breeding murres fell by up to 70%, and there was complete reproductive failure in 1989, 1990 and 1991; [45] the Trustees suggest that it may take a century for the population to recover, if at all. [46]

Thus the views put forward by Baker, Clark and Kingston are not shared by all scientists of marine pollution. In fact, the three are known as 'sceptics' with regard to the ecological damage caused by oil spills (their main point being that oil spills' effects are short-term, and do not significantly impact upon populations or ecosystems in the longer term), and have written extensively on the subject since at least the early 1980s. Kingston is part of the Institute of Offshore Engineering at Heriot-Watt University, most of whose work is for the oil and gas industry, and Kingston himself "has worked on most major North Sea petroleum developments." [47]

Because their views are 'friendly' is at least partly why Exxon chose these three to assess the Valdez damage. But more cynically, Otto Harrison, Exxon's Director of Operations in Alaska, told an Institute of Petroleum conference in London that Exxon had used British scientists because the American public would find a scientific message more credible and more impressive if spoken in an English accent. [48]

Resources

Mother Jones Magazine published an overview "Put a Tiger In Your Think Tank" in their May/June 2005 Issue, outlining how ExxonMobil has pumped more than $8 million into more than 40 think tanks; media outlets; and consumer, religious, and civil rights groups that preach skepticism about climate catastrophe.

References

  1. ^ Leslie Wayne, 'Companies Used to Getting Their Way', New York Times, December 4, 1998
  2. ^ The Center for Responsive Politics website http://www.opensecrets.org/lobbyists/client.asp?ID=92872&year=1999, viewed 23.08.01
  3. ^ ibid.
  4. ^ American Petroleum Institute website http://www.api.org/about/aboutindex.htm, viewed 31/08/01
  5. ^ American Petroleum Institute website http://www.api.org/globalclimate/bigpicture.htm, viewed 31/08/01
  6. ^ 'The Case Against Esso', a Stop Esso campaign briefing available at http://www.stopesso.com/about.htm
  7. ^ United States Council for International Business website http://www.uscib.org/dkpuscib.asp
  8. ^ United States Council for International Business website http://www.uscib.org/bushclim.asp
  9. ^ Greenhouse Market Mania-UN climate talks corrupted by corporate pseudo-solutions, CEO, November 2000, available at http://www.xs4all.nl/~ceo/greenhouse/index.html
  10. ^ CEFIC, 'Climate Policies and the Chemical Industry', June 1999
  11. ^ ibid.
  12. ^ Global Climate Coalitions website http://www.globalclimate.org/climscience.htm
  13. ^ 'The Case Against Esso', a Stop Esso campaign briefing available at http://www.stopesso.com/about.htm
  14. ^ The Center for Responsive Politics' web site, http://www.opensecrets.org/bush/cabinet.asp#1
  15. ^ 'The Greening of George W. Bush (The Governor's 'Clean Air' Bill Hasn't Cleaned Up Texas' Air)', by Louise Dubose, 27/10/2000

http://www.auschron.com/issues/dispatch/2000-10-27/pols_feature9.html

  1. ^ 'A Decade of Dirty Tricks: ExxonMobil's attempts to stop the world tackling climate change', a briefing by Greenpeace (July 2001), online at http://www.stopesso.com/pdf/Dirty%20Tricks.pdf
  2. ^ ExxonMobil website http://www.exxonmobil.com/em_newsrelease
  3. ^ The Center for Responsive Politics website http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/contrib.asp?Ind=E01, viewed 23.08.01
  4. ^ ExxonMobil website http://www.exxonmobil.com/community/
  5. ^ The Center for Commercial-Free Public Education website http://www.commercialfree.org/sem.html, viewed 23.08.01
  6. ^ http://www.mediatransparency.org/recipients/free.htm
  7. ^ ExxonMobil annual report 2001, p.5
  8. ^ The Times, 16/10/00, Keith Taylor Obituary
  9. ^ Lynne Williams, 'Honorary degrees/noticeboard', in THES #1266, 7/2/97, p.30
  10. ^ ExxonMobil, 'We cover a lot of ground', recruitment brochure, 2000
  11. ^ Lloyds List Energy Day - Recruitment & Training - 'Strategies for major change', 23/3/98, p.10
  12. ^ Lynne Williams, 'Chairs/noticeboard' in THES #1295, 29/8/97, p.26
  13. ^ Olga Wojtas, 'Chemists to make complex simple', in THES, no.1241, 16/8/96, p.7
  14. ^ THES, 'Motor math', in no.1227, 10/5/96, p.SP/2
  15. ^ Managing HE, Issue 1, Winter 1995 (pub. Hobsons)
  16. ^ University of Aberdeen, Department of Geology & Petroleum Geology, Staff directory, on worldwide website http://www.abdn.ac.uk/geology/staff/staffdir.htm, viewed 8/10/98
  17. ^ University of Dundee, 'Armando Zamora', on website, http://www.dundee.ac.uk/petroleumlaw/html/zamora.htm, viewed 5/2/99
  18. ^ University of Dundee, 'CEPMLP profile', on website, http://www.dundee.ac.uk/petroleumlaw/html/profile.htm,viewed 5/2/99
  19. ^ University of Nottingham, 'Scholarships open to Undergraduate Students', pp.E.46-E.48, 1996/97
  20. ^ Dr. Jenifer Baker, Prof. Robert Clark & Dr. Paul Kingston, 'Environmental Recovery in Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska', June 1990, commissioned by Exxon, pp.3,9 (pub. Institute of Offshore Engineering, Heriot-Watt University)
  21. ^ Reuter News Service, 'Exxon scientists see Alaska oil spill recovery', 14/6/90; quoted in Andrew Rowell, 'The Exxon Valdez - a case of corporate virtual reality', March 1994, p.16 (pub. Greenpeace International)
  22. ^ Robert Clark, 'Recovery: the untold story of Valdez spill', in Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy, Winter 1991, pp.24-26
  23. ^ ibid.
  24. ^ Golob's Oil Pollution Bulletin, 'Exxon claims ecosystem has recovered from Exxon Valdez', in vol.V no.11, 7/5/93; quoted in Rowell, op.cit., p.15
  25. ^ Rick Steiner, 'Lessons from Alaska for Shetland - lessons from both for the world', 1993; quoted in Rowell, op.cit., p.15
  26. ^ Scientists still finding oil after 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, by Doug O'Harra, Anchorage Daily News, http://www.nandotimes.com/nation/story/43784p-681103c.html
  27. ^ Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, Exxon Valdez oil spill restoration plan - summary of alternatives for public comment, supplement to draft, Anchorage, June 1993, B17; quoted in Rowell, op.cit.,p.15
  28. ^ Brenda Ballachey & James Bodkin (both of Alaska Fish & Wildlife Research Centre, National Biological Survey, Anchorage), & Anthony De Gange
  29. ^ Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, op.cit.
  30. ^ Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustees, Exxon Valdez oil spill restoration - Volume 1 - restoration framework, Anchorage, April 1992, pp.31-32; quoted in Rowell, op.cit., p.13
  31. ^ Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, op.cit., B9
  32. ^ Baker, Clark & Kingston, op. cit., p.12 - About the authors
  33. ^ Otto Harrison (of Exxon), 'Lessons from the Exxon Valdez', lecture to Institute of Petroleum, 4/3/92; cited in Rowell, op.cit., p.25
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