Thursday, December 8, 2016

Tillerson: Big Oil and Climate Change, or Drill Baby Drill

It appears that the top candidate for the position of Secretary of State isn’t Mitt Romney or David Petraeus. Rex Tillerson, the chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corporation will become Trump’s Secretary of State.

Donald Trump’s cabinet picks aren’t helping his denial of the never ending accusations of his alleged Russian involvement in the winning of the election either. 

 Tillerson, Putin, and Russia's Relationship

Tillerson has been the key player behind Exxon Mobil's expansion in Russia for decades. He was in charge of the subsidiary's fields in Russia and the Caspian Sea when Tillerson worked for Exxon Neftegas Ltd.  When the U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia for its seizure of long time historical Russian territory of Crimea, Tillerson opposed the sanctions. Tillerson and Vladimir Putin have been associates since Tillerson represented Exxon Mobil’s interests in Russia during Boris Yeltsin's premiership. Tillerson has had more interactive time with Putin than probably any other American with the exception of Henry Kissinger.

Russian President Putin also awarded Russia's Order of Friendship, one of the country's highest civilian honors to Tillerson.

In 2011, Tillerson headed up the successful effort for Exxon Mobil to sign a deal with Rosneft, Russia's largest state-owned oil company, for joint oil exploration and production. Despite U.S. sanctions against Russia, Tillerson and Rosneft Chief Igor Sechin announced plans to begin drilling in the Russian Arctic for oil as part of their joint venture. 

Tillerson isn’t Trump’s only cabinet member to be linked to Russia, his top adviser Paul Manafort, has consulted for Putin-backed Ukrainian politicians. Trump’s foreign policy adviser Carter Page advised Russian gas giant Gazprom. 

Trump’s cabinet choice Tillerson has everybody worried. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain told Fox News “it is a matter of concern to me" and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee cited Trump's "cavalier dismissal" of U.S. intelligence reports that “Russia interfered in U.S. elections.”

 Tillerson and Climate Change

Could Trump’s critics be wrong? After all, after Trump’s win, Tillerson came out in support of the Paris Climate Agreement and said it [Exxon Mobil] favors a carbon tax as an emissions-cutting strategy.

Tillerson is, however, one of the few people selected for roles in the Trump administration who believes that human activity causes climate change.
Despite this, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee claims that Tillerson has "business ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin, and whose company worked to bury and deny climate science for years." 

Exxon Mobil is under investigation by the Mr. Schneiderman and the New York Attorney General's Office for allegedly misleading investors, regulators, and the public on what it knew about global warming.

An investigation by the Los Angeles Times and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism’s Energy and Environmental Reporting Project detailed how Exxon Mobil made a strategic decision in the late 1980s to publicly emphasize doubt and uncertainty regarding climate change science even as its internal research embraced the growing scientific consensus.

In 2004, Exxon Mobil provided $200,000 to organizations questioning that science such as the Frontiers of Freedom Institute, which supported a well-known climate change skeptic Willie Soon. More than $15 million was provided by Exxon Mobil’s foundation to similar organizations between 1998 and 2005.

In 2010, in a congressional testimony by Tillerson, said that while the company acknowledged that humans were affecting the climate through greenhouse gas emissions to some degree, it was not yet clear “to what extent and therefore what can you do about it.” 

Mr. Tillerson added, “There is not a model available today that is competent” for understanding the science and predicting the future.

This is pretty much the stance that Mobile Oil (now part of Exxon Mobil) has always taken. In 1997, Mobil Oil took out an advertisement in the New York Times and the Washington Post which read:

“Let’s face it: The science of climate change is too uncertain to mandate a plan of action that could plunge economies into turmoil,” the ad said. “Scientists cannot predict with certainty if temperatures will increase, by how much and where changes will occur.”

 Big Oil and Climate Change

According to the Los Angeles Times December 2015 article by Amy Lieberman and Susanne Rust entitled, Big Oil braced for global warming while it fought regulations

As many of the world’s major oil companies — including Exxon, Mobil and Shell — joined a multimillion-dollar industry effort to stave off new regulations to address climate change, they were quietly safeguarding billion-dollar infrastructure projects from rising sea levels, warming temperatures, and increasing storm severity.

From the North Sea to the Canadian Arctic, the companies were raising the decks of offshore platforms, protecting pipelines from increasing coastal erosion, and designing helipads, pipelines and roads in a warming and buckling Arctic.

“During planning and construction of major engineering and infrastructure projects, it is standard practice to take into account many types of risks both short-term and long-term, likely and unlikely,” said Alan Jeffers, a spokesman for Exxon Mobil, which merged in 1999. “These risks would naturally include a range of environmental conditions, some of which could be associated with climate change.”

In 1989, a collection of energy companies including Exxon, Mobil, Shell and others created the Global Climate Coalition (GCC) to fight impending climate change regulations.

The GCC’s campaign emphasized the uncertainty surrounding climate change science, and warned of dire economic consequences for consumers should regulations on the industry be enacted. The GCC didn’t deny the existence of global warming, but there was uncertainty about how well the models could project its future impact.

In 1989, Shell Oil announced it was redesigning a $3-billion North Sea natural gas platform that it had been developing for years. The reason it gave: Sea levels were going to rise as a result of global warming. The original design called for the platform to sit 30 meters above the ocean’s surface, but the company decided to raise it by a meter or two.

By the mid-1990s, the GCC, and with its partners was publicly questioning the science behind climate change and casting doubt on its projected impact.

In 1995, GCC assembled an advisory committee of scientific and technical experts to compile an internal-only, 17-page report on climate science entitled Predicting Future Climate Change: A Primer, which said: “The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied.”

According to The New York Times, the primer demonstrated that "even as the coalition worked to sway opinion, its own scientific and technical experts were advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming could not be refuted."