ExxonMobil Lobbyist Pretty Proud Of How Much He Messed Up Biden's Climate Legislation
A lobbyist for oil giant ExxonMobil was recorded bragging about what a fantastic job the company had done in blocking climate legislation proposed by the Biden administration. Keith McCoy, a senior lobbyist for ExxonMobil, thought he was talking on a video call with corporate headhunters who wanted to hire him, but in reality, the call came from activists with Greenpeace UK's investigative outfit, "Unearthed." The UK's Channel 4 News broke the story yesterday, and Exxon is very very unhappy about the whole thing.
Among other things, McCoy touted ExxonMobil's success in lobbying to sharply pare back climate provisions in the bipartisan infrastructure bill supported by Joe Biden, acknowledged the company has boosted climate denial groups, and said the company's "support" for a carbon tax is just a show to pretend it supports climate action, because there's little chance such a tax would pass anyway. He also said ExxonMobil tries to avoid having its CEO or other executives appear before Congress, preferring to leave it to industry groups like the American Petroleum Institute to be the "whipping boys" for climate.
McCoy identified 11 "moderate" members of the US Senate he said were "crucial" to ExxonMobil's climate inaction agenda, and wouldn't you know it, all but two of them have taken money from the company's PAC. Of the group, McCoy said the "kingmaker" was Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), one of the leaders of the effort to create a small bipartisan infrastructure deal for Biden to sign. The Biden administration insists that even though the bipartisan plan doesn't include many climate measures from his American Jobs Plan, those measures will be included in a separate bill that would be passed by Democrats only, using the budget reconciliation process to avoid a filibuster.
Here's Channel 4's video teasing a longer version of the story that aired last night.
McCoy handily demolished years of ExxonMobil ads claiming it's super-concerned about climate, explaining that the company has also relied on third-party organizations to fight any meaningful restrictions on carbon emissions, and bragging that he had lobbied senators to slash climate provisions from Biden's American Jobs Plan.
ExxonMobil was quick to denounce the video as mean, underhanded propaganda from Greenpeace, which it said has "waged a multi-decade campaign against our company and industry," insisting the company supports climate science and scrupulously follows all federal lobbying laws. Not that Greenpeace UK said ExxonMobil had broken the law, just that it was a sleazy dirty planet killer, which is, weirdly, perfectly legal.
McCoy said that sure, ExxonMobil had fought hard against climate legislation, but that was fine, because it's only business:
McCOY: Did we aggressively fight against some of the science? Yes. Did we hide our science? Absolutely not. Did we join some of these shadow groups to work against some of the early efforts? Yes, that's true. But there's nothing, there's nothing illegal about that.
You know, we were looking out for our investments. We were looking out for our [...] shareholders.
Some of that is hardly a secret. A 2015 investigation by InsideClimate News found that scientists working for Exxon, back before it merged with Mobil, had determined as early as 1977 that climate change was being caused by burning fossil fuels, and that the company had, following the Big Tobacco model, funded junk science to promote doubt and delay efforts to limit carbon emissions.
McCoy also discussed how he had lobbied the "moderate" senators to strip down the Biden proposal so it only dealt with "real" infrastructure, conveniently removing items that might reduce ExxonMobil's profits:
McCOY: That's a completely different conversation when you start to stick to roads and bridges. And instead of a $2 trillion bill, it's an $800 billion dollar bill. If you lower that threshold, you stick to highways and bridges then a lot of the negative stuff starts to come out.
Why would you put in something on emissions reductions on climate change to oil refineries in a highway bill? So, people say "yeah, that doesn't make any sense," so then you get to the germane of saying that shouldn't be in this bill.
In its statement, ExxonMobil contended McCoy had it all wrong, and that the company's "lobbying efforts are related to a tax burden that could disadvantage US businesses."
We should also note that, ExxonMobil lobbying or no, any infrastructure deal Republicans might vote for wouldn't be especially strong on climate, which is why Democrats have said the climate measures absolutely have to be in a reconciliation measure, or they won't support it.
While he was at it, McCoy seemed awfully pleased with the brilliant idea of his company lobbying in favor of a carbon tax, which allowed ExxonMobil to look like it's doing something on climate, at least for public consumption:
McCOY: I will tell you there is not an appetite for a carbon tax. It is a non-starter. Nobody is going to propose a tax on all Americans. And the cynical side of me says yeah we kind of know that. But it gives us a talking point. We can say well what is ExxonMobil for? Well we're for a carbon tax.
Luckily for ExxonMobil, he said, passing anything would "take political courage, political will" on the part of Congress, and "that just doesn't exist in politics. It just doesn't."
And then there are those 11 senators McCoy said are crucial to getting what ExxonMobil wants. They include six Democrats and five Republicans:
- John Barrasso (R-Wyoming)
- Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia)
- John Cornyn (R-Texas)
- Steve Daines (R-Montana)
- Marco Rubio (R-Florida)
- Chris Coons (D-Delaware)
- Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire)
- Mark Kelly (D-Arizona)
- Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia)
- Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona)
- Jon Tester (D-Montana)
According to FEC filings, Channel 4 reports, all but Hassan and Kelly had received campaign contributions from ExxonMobil; Manchin, the supposed "kingmaker," has "received at least $12,500 from the ExxonMobil Political Action Committee" since the 2011-12 election cycle. For perspective, the oil and gas bidness isn't among the top five industries funding Manchin's campaigns. It is, however, in eighth place, with a total of just over $200K in contributions from 2015 to 2020, so it's also not peanuts.
ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods said he was very disappointed to learn of McCoy's comments, and said in a press release,
We condemn the statements and are deeply apologetic for them, including comments regarding interactions with elected officials [...]
We were shocked by these interviews and stand by our commitments to working on finding solutions to climate change.
Yes, and we're sure it was especially shocking that McCoy got caught saying all that on video, for sure. This certainly isn't likely to go over well with the ExxonMobil shareholders who elected three members of a climate activist investor group, Engine No. 1, to ExxonMobil's board last month.
Moral of the story: Oil companies aren't going to change without being forced to change, both through investor pressure and, more importantly, through the law. Get on the phone to your representatives and senators and let them know the reconciliation bill absolutely has to include the climate provisions from the American Jobs Act.
All of them.
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