From the Panama Papers to the Pentagon Papers with a stop in between at the internal memos exposed during the states’ litigation against Big Tobacco in the 1990s, industry documents are powerful tools in showing who knew what when – and shifting the tide of public opinion. We’ve reported on Inside Climate News‘ expose and political and legal reactions to it. Now, a treasure trove of documents on display at CIEL‘s website show what Exxon knew when. Read more here.
A newly released study from the UK-based, non-profit InfluenceMap reveals that just 5 oil industry entities collectively spend an estimated nearly $115 million every year through lobbying and influence to obstruct climate policy. And the report’s team considers this a conservative estimate. Topping the list are the American Petroleum Institute (API) ($65 mill), ExxonMobil ($27 mill) and Shell ($22 mill). The new assessment is built from InfluenceMap’s September 2015 release of a much larger assessment of 100 leading industrial corporations and 30 powerful trade associations.
This study, which also included the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA), is no stab in the dark exercise. InfluenceMap offers an open platform and transparent methodology, and utilizes well-established data sources of publicly available information, along with original research. A big reason InfluenceMap’s analysis is considered conservative is that it can’t count the monies these entities direct to anti-climate think tanks. Current disclosure requirements mean that information doesn’t have to be made public.
In addition to direct lobbying, the assessment covers the multiple ways corporations exert influence in today’s world – advertising, PR, social media, and access to certain circles. The application of these methods toward climate science and policy in the U.S. has been well documented.
InfluenceMap’s performance rankings are reported in grades A+ through F. Each entity’s grade is based on both its direct influencing efforts as well as its strength of relationships with policy influencers (e.g., trade associations, chambers of commerce, and advocacy groups) and the importance of those influencers. The results? API, WSPA, and APPEA all got Fs, ExxonMobil got an E-, and Shell received a D-.
This report is designed to help investors assess and manage climate risk. It also assists shareholders seeking corporate change, and climate-progressive corporations seeking competitive advantage. For advocates of climate-smart policy, it may advance the effort to quench fossil fuel’s already smoldering fire.
As we featured back in September, 2015, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists of Inside Climate News outed Exxon for first doing peer-reviewed research into climate change before choosing to invest its time and money into climate change denial groups like the Global Climate Coalition. Since then, a number of politicians have called for investigation of whether the fossil fuel company broke any laws, including those that protect shareholder interests.
Last week a coalition of 17 attorneys general from across the US announced investigations of climate-related fraud. The coalition includes California, Connecticut, D.C., Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. AGs from Massachusetts and the US Virgin Islands will investigate ExxonMobil’s alleged misleading of shareholders and the public on climate risk. New York and California’s AGs have already gone down this path. All of these states committed to working together as “creatively, collaboratively, and aggressively” as possible to combat climate change. The inevitable comparisons with Big Tobacco in the 1990s have come out, whether by former VP Al Gore or in Naomi Oreskes’ excellent book, Merchants of Doubt.