On how in 1982, Exxon Mobil published a beautiful 46 page report and estimated with stunning accuracy that the atmosphere would contain 415 parts per million of carbon dioxide this year. Then: They lied; They lobbied; They corrupted; They profited. And so we ended up, in 2019, with a climate emergency. Hero of the Week: 1,000 Australian engineers rebelling and putting engineering firms under pressure to abandon fossil fuel projects. Villain of the Week: Shell Oil, for trying to rip off British drivers at the pump
Photo by Assaad W Razzouk
There’s a fundamental fact about climate that always makes my blood boil.
In 1982 Exxon Mobil published a beautiful 46 page report with a 10 page detailed index of sources and all the way back in 1982 estimated with stunning accuracy exactly where emissions were going to be today in 2019. Its report back then said that the atmosphere would contain 415 parts per million of carbon dioxide this year. And then the Exxon scientists who wrote that report explained what that would mean in terms of climate impact. But then Exxon lied, Exxon lobbied, Exxon corrupted, and Exxon profited. And so we ended up today in 2019 with a global climate emergency.
These are facts.
Welcome to Episode 24 of The Angry Clean Energy Guy with me, Assaad Razzouk. I am so happy you’re here. Thank you.
Exxon Mobil are ubiquitous.
They are everywhere in your life, everywhere in mine. They are the petrol that we use to fill our cars, our trucks, our buses with. They are the fuel that powers planes and ships. They are the plastic that you see everywhere.
And they are finally in serious trouble.
In the first of several lawsuits that are today pending against oil companies related to climate change, the People of New York kicked off a long awaited trial in a civil lawsuit accusing Exxon of climate fraud.
This trial is expected to take three weeks in the Manhattan Supreme Court without a jury and we should watch it carefully. The trial kicked off this week when the New York Attorney General told a judge that Exxon has been using two sets of books to hide the true cost of climate change regulations from investors and therefore defraud them.
In other words, Exxon was pumping its stock price to a level that was not consistent with what it should be and therefore deceiving investors with wrong numbers and wrong data and wrong math.
Also this week, Massachusetts, so that’s the state of Massachusetts, filed a lawsuit against the same people at Exxon Mobile. The state claims the oil giant misled investors about the risks of climate change pose to its business, and deceived consumers about the oil company’s role in the climate crisis.
Now Exxon and other big oil companies like BP and Chevron and Shell all face lawsuits and lots of them by cities and counties across the United States and around the world as well because there is a huge legal movement that is seeking to get money from all these people to pay for the climate adaptation that we’re going to need billions and billions, actually hundreds of billions of dollars in seawalls and other infrastructure to guard against rising sea levels brought on by climate change as well as the wanton destruction from stronger hurricanes, more rain, heat waves, floods, typhoons, etc.
If you want a comprehensive review of climate litigation, please tune to Episode 19 of The Angry Clean Energy Guy where I surveyed the global landscape of climate change lawsuits.
Today I want to start by reading a couple of paragraphs from the New York lawsuit, which is The People of New York versus Exxon Mobil. So here we go.
“This case seeks redress for a longstanding fraudulent scheme by Exxon, one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies to deceive investors and the investment community, including equity research analysts and underwriters of debt securities, concerning the company’s management of the risks posed to its business by climate change regulation. Exxon provided false and misleading assurances that it is effectively managing the economic risks posed to its business by the increasingly stringent policies and regulations that it expects governments to adopt to address climate change. Instead of managing those risks in the manner it represented to investors, Exxon employed internal practices that were inconsistent with its representations, were undisclosed to investors and expose the company to greater risk from climate change regulation than investors were led to believe four years.
And continuing through the present, Exxon has claimed that although it expects government to impose increasingly stringent climate change regulations, its oil and gas reserves and other long-term assets face little if any risk of becoming stranded (i.e. too costly to develop or operate due to those regulations) and reassured investors that it would be able to profitably exploit those assets well into the future”.
So that’s the bit I wanted to read from The People of New York versus Exxon Mobil.
It’s strong, it’s aggressive and it’s stating facts and these cases are very important because if they are successful, they would bring Big Oil to account for the true cost of its fossil fuel business that is crushing nature. If their business is priced correctly, it would be less competitive with wind and solar and other renewable energy sources. And as a result we would accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.
What Big Oil has gotten away with for 40 years is it’s got away with not applying the principle of the “polluter pays.” Now for these oil companies, current damages from climate and future damages from climate are incalculable. I mean the numbers are tremendous. We’re talking anywhere from $400 billion to several trillion dollars depending on where we end up in terms of warming. And that’s because you need to take into account how climate change is destroying our planet’s diversity and all the financial losses and human suffering that result from rising seas and temperatures.
Now, as my regular listeners know, we know that just 90 companies account for two thirds of man-made CO2 emissions since industrialization began. And we also know that just the top 20 oil and gas companies are responsible for 35% of all emissions since 1965. Now, what makes this really crazy is that Exxon knew since the 1970s that its business was altering the climate, but instead of doing the right thing, it repeatedly lied to the public just as tobacco companies did, who despite the fact that they knew that cigarettes caused cancer, denied it and they denied it and denied it.
And Exxon Mobil did the same thing.
Now more specifically, the largest five stock market listed oil and gas companies spend $200 million a year lobbying to delay control or block policies to tackle climate change. And guess what? Chevron, BP and Exxon Mobil were the main companies leading this lobbying. They spend this money on climate denying think-tanks, fake experts, fake research to confuse the public about climate science – confusion that is everywhere to this day – while doubling down on their business model by continuing to increase their production of oil and gas.
We also learned this week that the big five spent 250 million euros lobbying the EU since 2010.
250 million euros in lobbying expenses.
Now the green sectors, renewable energy, energy efficiency, green buildings don’t have anywhere near that kind of money to lobby anybody and they hardly do any lobbying. And so what happens? Their voices get drowned by a wall of money erected by Big Oil.
Exxon, for example, to this day, still plans to increase its all output by 25% in the next five years when we should be sharply reducing oil and gas production.
Now we’re not going to get rid of oil and gas production between now and 2050 but we can decrease it by 90% and keep it to absolutely essential goods that we produce with oil and gas and plastic for medical equipment for example might be one of those. But with solar and wind far more competitive than producing electricity from gas or oil, the only thing standing between fueling the world with clean energy or destroying it are these lobbying dollars from Exxon and BP and Shell and Chevron.
So these climate lawsuits are important because they are probably going to result in billions of dollars of fines and penalties and that money is going to be necessary for communities everywhere to fight back and repair the climate damage and fortify the infrastructure for the storms ahead.
Because remember, only the rich have the tools to fight climate change today. For everybody else, we’re going to need Big Oil to pay up.
A recent example of how the rich can fight climate change is Singapore. Its prime minister recently explained in his national day rally speech how the country is going to have to spend $100 billion to build its defenses against the climate change impact that it already can see from rising sea levels.
Not many countries can spend $100 billion only on climate change adaptation. Singapore can. But what about everybody else?
The key takeaway is that we are not in this mess because we are eating meat. We’re not in this mess because of our flying choices, because we’re flying too much. We’re not even in this mess because of plastic. We’re not in this mass because we heat our homes with gas or because we drive.
We are in this mess because the oil and gas companies hid the truth and lobbied for 40 years to stop information leading to action against climate change. That’s why we are in this mess.
And so while I have all the time in the world for individual action and I respect it, and I would encourage it, we must all waste less. We must all consume more intelligently. And we must all do what we can to fight pollution. But the one thing that really, really matters is for oil and gas output to go down 90% by 2050 – and behind that oil and gas output is just a few companies and what’s between us and this happening is their wall of money and deceit and lies.
In Episode 23 I covered petrochemicals to show how Big Oil are burying us with cheap plastic to make money, while at the same time having convinced us that it’s okay because we can recycle – when in fact it turns out that recycling is a con since we’re hardly recycling anything globally.
Imagine a world in which the oil and gas companies led by Exxon Mobil did not lie, did not obfuscate, did not lobby, and did not corrupt all the way back in the 1980’s. Information would have spread to governments and citizens around the world. The price of oil, gas, and coal would have changed. The price of plastic would have changed and all these price changes would have led to consuming less oil, gas, and plastic all the way back from the 1980s. Electrification would have accelerated. Renewable deployment would have accelerated. Research and development into powering planes and ships cleanly and producing steel and cement without fossil fuels would also have increased. So many less people would have died from pollution.
Instead I have to walk around and be assaulted by aggressive, false and unethical advertising by oil and gas companies everywhere I look. I’ll give you a small example. I recently flew from London to Singapore. In London, first I had to put up with ads by British Petroleum in the airport pretending to be a green company and frankly these ads were just gross. Then I had to put up with Shell’s ads trying to convince drivers to buy carbon offsets at pumps, which is just abusive because Shell is sourcing these carbon credits for almost nothing and then selling them to drivers at a profit, so therefore, not only selling more petrol to fuel cars, but also ripping off the consumers, again, by selling them carbon offsets that it’s making a ton of money on. I mean, they have no shame.
And finally on landing in Singapore, I had to put up with Exxon ads that were plastering the airport, pretending that we’re going to power the entire world with Algae soon.
I mean, it was just incredible dealing with BP, Shell and Exxon nonstop while traveling. And don’t believe any of it: They’re all lies. Instead, look at the writing on the wall. The end of big oil is near, and they know it.
Recently, for example, and I’ll give you three examples, Honda announced that it’s going to stop producing gasoline-only vehicles in Europe by 2022. That’s in two years. And it’s going to replace all of that with hybrid and electric cars three years ahead of its previous schedule. So things are accelerating. And here’s another example. After paying $30 billion of fines, because it’s been cheating on emissions worldwide, Volkswagen saw the light and has gone through a radical green reboot. It’s spending $50 billion on electric vehicles – more than any other car maker – and it’s got 70 electric cars in its pipeline. Basically Volkswagen bet the house on electrification and electric cars with no going back. If you look at the US, shale gas investors in the US are now starving US shale gas drillers of capital with bankruptcies going up in that sector. There has been 33 bankruptcies in US shale this year, 27 of them since May, which is only a few months ago, and that’s as many as in all of 2018. And it’s not going to get better for any of them.
The signs abound that we’ve turned the corner, so we must push back against Big Oil propaganda forever.
HERO OF THE WEEK
Thank you so much for listening to me this far. You can always go to my website, https://theangrycleanenergyguy.com/, where you will find transcripts of all my previous episodes and transcripts for this one just as soon as I have posted the next episode.
My hero of the week is a very underreported story. It’s Australian engineers. 1,000 Australian engineers and 90 organizations related to them are putting engineering firms in Australia under pressure to abandon fossil fuel projects. They are rebelling and firms that are working on the Adan Carmichael coal mine, an assault against environment and climate, are facing potential revolt from staff.
Now this is very important because our individual choices in terms of where we decide to work and who we decide to work for matter greatly. What Big Oil are seeing today is they are becoming less attractive to new graduates. For example, in the US there are 22 petroleum engineering programs. These enrolled 2,000 seniors this year. That’s 1,800 less than in 2016 and the number of graduates in petroleum engineering is down 60% from three years ago. So we make meaningful change by choosing who we are not willing to work for and starving Big Oil of top talent is bound to fasten their demise. So very well done indeed Australian engineers.
VILLAIN OF THE WEEK
My villain of the week is Shell. I mean their attempt to sell motorists in the Netherlands and in the UK carbon offsets at the pump have zero morality and zero ethics attached to them because what Shell in fact is saying is,
“Oh, I’m providing a service by fueling your car; It’s not my problem that your car is contributing to global climate change and local pollution, It’s actually your problem, Mr or Mrs driver. And if you want to feel better for yourself, I’ve got these cheap carbon credits for you that you can buy to offset your carbon footprint.”
Now, there are so many problems with what Shell is doing, it’s not funny.
First, it is their fault that we are still driving as many gasoline cars as we are driving because as I’ve shown in this episode and several others before, they have been lying and cheating and lobbying for 30 to 40 years stopping climate action and deceiving not only investors but also citizens worldwide.
So it is therefore it’s not your fault, driver.
Number two, the carbon offsets. Instead of doing the right thing and buying the carbon offsets themselves and retiring them themselves, Shell, to offset their pollution, they are selling them to us drivers at a significant mark-up to what they are sourcing them at, making even more money from polluting the planet. I mean, shame on you, Shell.
Thank you so much for listening to me. It’s been Episode 24 of The Angry Clean Energy Guy and have a wonderful couple of weeks
There is so much to be angry about, if you are a clean energy guy.
Every day, so many things that happen around the world make me angry when I look at them with lenses colored by the climate change chaos unfolding everywhere around us. And I am especially angry because I know we can solve the climate change crisis if we were only trying.
Each week, I will share with you a few topics that struck me and that I was very angry about – and this will generally have to do with climate change, solar or wind power, plastic pollution, environmental degradation, wildlife, the oceans and other related topics.