No Sympathy for the Devil: Exxon Responds to New Revelations.

September 19, 2015

Ouch. Rather tough interviewer is not buying Exxon’s response to the new revelations about new revelations that the oil giant’s own internal research verified the causes and at least some of the most serious effects of climate change as long ago as 1981.  Some of the documents date from the 1970s.

This is the kind of evidence that allowed the government to finally nail the Tobacco industry to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars.  Given the much larger damages from climate already sustained, and in the pipeline, so to speak, potential recovery from the fossil fuel industry might be an order of magnitude, at least, larger.

Honest, if I knew how to embed their player, I would not have lifted the audio from here. Definitely give them a click.

Climate Investigations Center:

The former Department of Justice lawyer who led the watershed lawsuit against tobacco companies, says that the news out today about oil giant ExxonMobil knowing as early as 1981 about the threat posed by climate change could worsen the fossil fuel industry’s liability picture.

Not only the media are buzzing over the revelation today that Exxon executives knew as early as 1981 of the significance of climate change and the dangers of carbon dioxide emissions, yet continued to fund scientists and a global misinformation campaign to sow doubt about whether global warming is real for another 27 years. Lawyers thinking of suing the industry for its role in warming the planet will certainly take note of what could be a potent new piece of evidence.

The admission came in an email by Leonard Bernstein, a chemical engineer who was Exxon’s in-house climate specialist.

The revelations in the Bernstein email had a familiar ring to former federal Department of Justice lawyer Sharon Eubanks. Eubanks led DOJ’s successful lawsuit against the tobacco companies under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) laws that proved a fifty-year-long conspiracy by Big Tobacco to create doubt about smoking’s hazards.

Eubanks said the revelations in the Bernstein email could significantly worsen the fossil fuel industry’s liability picture:

“It starts to look like a much longer conspiracy. It’s like what we discovered with tobacco – the more you push back the date of knowledge of the harm, the more you delay any remediation, the more people are affected. So your liability can grow exponentially as the timeline gets longer.”

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23 Responses to “No Sympathy for the Devil: Exxon Responds to New Revelations.”

  1. andrewfez Says:

    Gilbert Plass nailed the climate sensitivity in the mid 1950’s; saying 2x[CO2] –> 3.6C warming. LBJ warned Congress about the dangers of the building [CO2] in the mid 1960’s. Everybody knew; they just wanted to kick the can down the road, as the short term benefit of cheap energy outweighed the ambiguous long term cost that they – the people that ran society in the 50’s, 60’s 70’s – personally wouldn’t have to pay.

  2. redskylite Says:

    Ethics (or lack of) in business is rearing it’s head again. Why Exxon undertook the original scientific research and then backtracked and suppressed findings is a matter of internal politics, greed and lack of ethics. Many of the people involved at that time are either dead or long retired.

    To the new generation, ethics now mean something in business, Exxon-Mobil, claims to be a caring company that is ISO14001 accredited, compliant and audit-able.

    That Standard is there to protect the environment and to be concerned about the effects of climate change (and you claim to be proud of your accreditation).

    You are making a mockery out of the standard, fess up and take responsibility. We are no longer in the early twentieth century.

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      “Exxon-Mobil, claims to be a caring company that is ISO14001 accredited, compliant and audit-able.

      That Standard is there to protect the environment and to be concerned about the effects of climate change (and you claim to be proud of your accreditation). ”

      That, sir, is pure poetry. 😉

  3. climatebob Says:

    Sue the bastards. The tobacco companies only killed 40 million people the fossil fuel companies are killing ten times more. And they know what they are doing.

  4. dumboldguy Says:

    Right on, Climate Bob!! Sue the bastards indeed!!! The Citizens United decision says that corporations are people, so that should make it even easier to sue them. Sue EVERYBODY, not just the fossil fuel companies, but anyone who came within six degrees of separation of them. The media companies, lobbyists, think tanks, industry associations, conservative think tanks, car makers, politicians, and anyone else who assisted in the cover up and disinformation campaign about AGW should be the target of suits.

    Worry the bastards to death, and get the word out in as many ways as possible. That portion of the public that calls itself “conservative” can’t stay stupid forever. I will contribute to the effort by personally bringing suit against the ghosts of Ronald Reagan and Dwight D. Eisenhower—-the first for spreading BS about how trees were bigger polluters than man, and the second for pushing the interstate highway system (which promoted and allowed suburban sprawl and our dependence on fossil fuels).

    Someone like desmoglblog, UCS, NRDC, or Greenpeace should assemble a basic “Citizens Sue the Fossil Fuel Bastards” kit that we can use to run down to our local courthouse and file suit.

  5. dumboldguy Says:

    You say “Ouch. Rather tough interviewer is not buying Exxon’s response…”?

    That’s a huge understatement. While listening to the interviewer deal with that lying POS spinmeister from Exxon—Richard Kyle—I flashed on the execution scene from Braveheart where William Wallace (Mel Gibson) was drawn and quartered. The interviewer left Kyle in bloody bits scattered on the ground, and the change in tone in Kyle’s voice as the interview progressed left no doubt that he was feeling the pain. I hope he gets paid big bucks, because his food bill is going to go up—-if he has an honest bone in his body, he will puke his lunch up after every lying “interview” session like this.



    • and the change in tone in Kyle’s voice as the interview progressed left no doubt that he was feeling the pain.

      If you noticed that (and I noticed that as well), then Kyle’s puppeteers at Exxon also noticed. Two predictions.

      1) We won’t hear from him again.
      2) His next paycheck will come from the unemployment office.

      Kyle’s lying capabilities simply aren’t up to Exxon’s standards — he’s toast.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        I had the same thoughts as your “predictions”, but didn’t feel strongly enough to voice them. In a sane world, 1) and 2) would occur, but I wouldn’t count on it.

        First, any replacement will have to read from the same script as Kyle did, and the script writers have NO hope of doing any better in the future—the FACTS are against them. Maybe they CAN find someone who can spew the BS without cracking the way Kyle did. (I would love to have been able to see his face and body language during the interview, because I’m sure he had a lot of “tells” there also—and I learned how to recognize “tells” by dealing with lying SOB’s like Kyle, not by playing poker).

        Second, regarding “standards”, Kyle’s puppeteers at Exxon aren’t very intelligent or discerning—after all, they DID fund Willie Soon, Fred Singer, Marc Morono, and the Stooges at Heartland (including Russell Cook), and seemed to think they got good value for their $$$. I think it’s just as likely they were high-fiving and fist bumping all over and saying “You’re doing a heckuva job, Kylie” a la “W”.

        Or to put it another way, the Exxon folks are up to the count of five* (three) and will soon reap the results. *(Book of Armaments, Chapter 4, Verses 16 to 20)

        PS Who is the flaming anal orifice and coward that is “thumbs-downing” my comments here without commenting themselves—-Russell Cook? Are you out there pouting over the last beating I gave you here? Come out from under your rock and engage!


  6. What Exxon has done is not all that different than the actions of the men (and a few women) who were tried at the Nuremberg Tribunals in 1946–they have set in motion the deaths of tens of millions of people in the name of profit. There’s no mere civil penalty that could match up the degree of devastation Exxon’s cover-up has caused. Maybe it’s time for an international tribunal for Exxon and other oil companies who’ve abrogated their responsibility to future generations in exchange for a few dollars. http://brooklynculturejammers.com/2015/09/18/dont-know-much-about-agw-exxon-knew/

  7. jimbills Says:

    I know this comment will not be well received, but every American (I’ll just talk the U.S. here) has known about climate change since at least the 1980’s, and so every American that has used fossil carbon since then is liable for the damages done to others from that use to past, present, and future people.

    Bush II said we’re addicted to oil (just one of the fossil carbon sources), but the truth is that we’re addicted to the way of life enabled by oil. Our society doesn’t function without it – period. Of course, we could accept a less energy intensive way of life, but virtually no one is considering this a legitimate option, so we’re in a situation where we blame the provider for the products we use.

    Exxon is clearly guilty of covering up their own research, but then this is a very common practice with any industry that produces products with possible externalities. The object of a corporation is to make money for its shareholders, and things that stand in the way of that goal are often ignored or diminished. It’s a psychopathic feature of economic growth in this country, but we never address that root cause – just the isolated cases that can be prosecuted, one by one, and corporations just consider these suits the cost of doing business. RJ Reynolds is fine – its stock prices have more than doubled in the last 5 years.

    I’m not defending Exxon. They are a particularly noxious example of corporate greed and deceit, and their actions have cost us some amount (technologies from the early 1980’s to now have progressed very, very little in the form of transport energy, and so even if they had published their research, it’s questionable how much we’d have weaned ourselves off oil to now) of time in coming to grips with this issue. Their actions, though, have reasonably cost humanity some amount of future pain, as vague and undefinable as that may be.

    (A lot of the problem with electric cars to now has been cost, and only with the rise in oil prices have we even come close to economic parity. If oil had remained at $10-$20/barrel from 1980 to now, there just wouldn’t be demand for alternatives.)

    But Exxon is only a part of the problem here. We’re the larger problem. Drugs don’t cross into this country from Latin America without drug users, tobacco isn’t a problem without its own demand, and oil isn’t an issue if we don’t use it. It’s easier to blame the dealers than ourselves, but it’s childish and self-defeating behavior.

    We should prosecute Exxon, although I would guess that this will lead nowhere in the courts due to the hazier features of Exxon’s direct liability for climate change as a whole. But prosecution won’t do anything for our climate change predicament. It’s just a distraction. Until we learn to do without oil in some way or another (replacement or reduction, and hopefully both), we’re going to have a provider, no matter what company it is, and we’ll conveniently ignore our own liability while we do so.

    • andrewfez Says:

      I see real estate is starting to pick back up: In Los Angeles they are revitalizing downtown with luxury condos – multiple projects going on; that’s good: it means walkable neighborhoods for millennials that don’t drive. I flew over Houston the other day. There is some manufactured demand for fossil fuels happening there: For miles around all I could see were brand new suburbs being built with similarly designed, model homes; nice homes.

      But in WV, where a car dealer who’s also a WV legislator successfully passed a bill denying Tesla’s business model in the state, there are miles of car dealerships with those big trucks all lined up, ready to contribute to our demise.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        If you want to know what the rich people are doing in real estate in Miami, read this:

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/what-50-million-gets-you-in-miamis-resurgent-condo-market/2015/09/18/b74ff4c6-5bdc-11e5-9757-e49273f05f65_story.html

        Not a single mention of AGW in the whole article.

        • andrewfez Says:

          Incidentally, Miami-Dade is a good place to invest in back taxes that people owe, when they default on their RE taxes. It has a one of the more generous return rates of all the counties in the US.

          But I don’t think most people realize that through USSR style market manipulation, and again, gradual relaxation of lending standards, they’ve fully reinflated the housing bubble in Los Angles. And it’s probably the same story in Miami and other coastal towns, though their higher property tax rates may inhibit some of the higher multiples, like it did in TX during the first bubble. The banksters are just rinsing and repeating the cycle to sweep up even more middle class wealth.

          1/2 of all Chinese millionaires plan to leave China at some point, when surveyed. They’ve already got Arcaida, CA covered and Orange County. There are even Chinese speaking real estate agents that work with folks trying to get out. Some of them do the ‘bring the pregnant wife over for vacation, and come home with an American citizen for a child’ thing. Vancouver is the same story: There’s a game online called ‘Crack shack or Mansion?’ where by looking at photos of old, beat up shacks, you have to decide whether or not they are million dollar properties in VC. The Chinese are RE investors through and through, though: 75% of the household wealth in China is in real estate as compared to something like 33% in the US. Once their ghost city bubble starts to burst like their stock market, that will potentially start a new global recession.

          Miami is doomed, but that wont stop speculators and specuvestors, as the main tenant in speculation is that at some point, the music stops, and whoever is left holding the property is the sucker. I would image the next RE value crash is what keeps them up at night and not the ocean flooding them out.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Why should this comment NOT be “well received”? One quick reading revealed nothing to disagree with.

      And the “truck focus group” ad is priceless. Shows how little respect the marketers have for the public (AND how unworthy the public is of respect).

      • Gingerbaker Says:

        Well, I disagree with this:

        “…the 1980’s, and so every American that has used fossil carbon since then is liable for the damages done to others from that use to past, present, and future people.”

        We are certainly not legally liable. And, sorry, but I don’t feel ethically or morally liable either. Not only was there no viable alternative to anyone on the planet to using fossil fuels, for almost all of us, not using them means destruction. And that includes all the people that JimBill’s feels we owe damages to – they were doing the same as we – whatever they realistically could and that included them using fossil fuels also.

        Sorry – but recognizing societal ills and fixing them is exactly the responsibility of national governments. And to the extent that we can help them accomplish that, whether that be by participation in government, or paying our taxes, or by political protest – that is where our responsibilities lie and where they end.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          You disagree with this? On what basis?

          “…the 1980’s, and so every American that has used fossil carbon since then is liable for the damages done to others from that use to past, present, and future people.”

          The U.S is responsible for by far the largest proportion of the CO2 that has been cumulatively emitted over the past 50 or 60 years and has resulted the rise to 400 ppm and AGW, and therefore we can be said to be “liable for damages” to the rest of the world.

          http://www.technologyreview.com/news/532316/the-united-states-is-far-and-away-the-leader-in-carbon-dioxide-emissions/

          Just as the rest of the industrialized world bears some responsibility, if not as much as America, and even the developing world has some culpability. ALL humans are to blame for the state of the world, and the concept of “comparative negligence” has some bearing here.

          It doesn’t matter that there “were no alternatives” or “we didn’t know”, the fact remains that the bill is coming due, and IMO, we ARE ethically and morally liable. We in the U.S. can also be taken to task for allowing our economic, government, and political systems to deteriorate to the point that they no longer serves the greater good.

          Things are going to hell and we’ve been too busy texting, watching reality TV, and going to the mall.

          • Gingerbaker Says:

            So, you think, say, a single mother who takes mass transit to work to house, clothe, and feed her kids should be held personally accountable for AGW, and owes some sort of retribution to future generations? How about some belching cows – are they to be held personally responsible as well?

            She, like the rest of us poor slobs, can only choose between available options that are affordable for us. And those options, and their affordability, are the responsibility of our governments. The people who are responsible for AGW are a our government officials who ignore it, as well as the people who make sure they ignore it.

            I suppose we could say that humanity in general is responsible for AGW, but I don’t see how you can hold powerless individuals individually responsible for this mess.

        • jimbills Says:

          Says the guy who loves his sports car, thinks everyone should have unlimited energy, consistently defends the meat industry, thinks that our consumerism isn’t a problem, and says it’s only fair that the rest of the world behaves exactly as we do. “It’s our birthright”.

          So, while you wait for government to solve this (don’t hold your breath, btw), you can go on defending the very practices that contribute to the world’s fossil carbon use in the past, present, and future while washing your hands that you are an innocent in the matter.

          GB – I’m sorry, you’re a nice guy, and I do wish you the best, but you fundamentally don’t understand what our problem is, and I don’t think you ever will.

          I would agree that governments provide the best solutions, but our governments also don’t “get it”, they’re only weakly considering modest solutions as is, and even these ineffectual attempts are fought tooth and nail by the guiltier factions of our society.

          “they were doing the same as we”

          The people of Tuvalu are not doing the same as we. The people of Denmark are far better than we are – they are less guilty than we Americans. Future generations will most likely not get to enjoy the comforts we currently have – they are almost certainly less guilty than we are. The people prior to say 1950 didn’t realize the extent of the damage they were doing to the biosphere – they are less guilty.

          We know these things, though, and have for quite a while, and we still have the largest carbon and environmental footprint in the world. We daily affirm these practices and desire to increase them even further (via economic growth). We’re quite guilty – all of us.

          Another thing – not using oil puts us in the same place as the Amish. It’s boring, sure, but it’s hardly “destruction”. I wouldn’t advocate a sudden cold turkey sort of situation, which would be destructive. I’d suggest a coordinated and global plan of fossil carbon replacement and forced fossil carbon reduction (both in production and consumption), planned to minimize food shortages, spread basic comforts globally (which includes cleaner forms of energy), while cutting consumption and energy use dramatically (but over time) in the developed countries.

          This is entirely too effective and reasonable for a gaggle of screeching apes, I know, but it’d be my suggestion.

          • Gingerbaker Says:

            “Says the guy who loves his sports car, thinks everyone should have unlimited energy, consistently defends the meat industry, thinks that our consumerism isn’t a problem, …”

            That little list is called an ad hominem fallacy. That’s dirty pool.

            “…who … says it’s only fair that the rest of the world behaves exactly as we do. “It’s our birthright”.

            Where did I ever say that? You are losing it.

            “So, while you wait for government to solve this (don’t hold your breath, btw), you can go on defending the very practices that contribute to the world’s fossil carbon use in the past, present, and future while washing your hands that you are an innocent in the matter.”

            What is your argument here – that I am somehow guilty of sin because I want us to approach solving AGW communally in the public sector? Because I eat meat, and don’t accept all the statistics thrown around about the livestock industry, it means I am more responsible for our lack of a AGW solution that your holier-than-thou self? You do realize that I advocate not using fossil fuels to to grow livestock, or anything else for that matter?

            I could easily argue, if I wanted to be a self-righteous prick, that your approaches are way too little, way too late and therefore murderous; that it is corporate lackeys like yourself, believers in voodoo freemarket profiteering who aren’t demanding a comprehensive governmental solution, who are the real problem. I could argue that your continual fatalism about growth is a deliberate diversionary tactic designed to torpedo a rapid pragmatic response to AGW, because you secretly DO want most of us to die. But I won’t say that.

            “The people of Denmark are far better than we are – they are less guilty than we Americans. “ The people of Denmark have a better government than we do. The people want and enjoy the same things we do – enough to eat, a safe and comfortable place to live. The same as the people of Tuvalu.

            “Another thing – not using oil puts us in the same place as the Amish. It’s boring, sure, but it’s hardly “destruction”.”

            Bullshit. Our society is built around the car and fossil fuels. There are millions of people living on an economic knife edge – and for you to suggest that they should feel guilty or should do without fossil fuels is unbelievably cruel. It would be impossible for them to survive. It would be a literal death sentence.

            ” I’d suggest a coordinated and global plan of fossil carbon replacement and forced fossil carbon reduction … while cutting consumption and energy use dramatically (but over time) in the developed countries.”

            And I will point out for the tenth time you evidently want people to suffer needlessly. Seriously – why are you a sadist? Why must we reduce energy use when we are surrounded by an effectively infinite supply of free energy? Your approach would the only way to lower [CO2] … IF… there was no such thing as carbon-free energy. You can’t seem to stop thinking like a carbon burner. Or you secretly would rather we all just die?

          • jimbills Says:

            GB – you just don’t get it, so it’s pointless to go on. There are at least 50 things wrong with your very delayed response, and I can’t figure out how to approach that, especially as I’d be communicating with a brick wall. Cheers.


  8. […] has been inept and reluctant in its response to the recent charges against it. On National Public Radio, Exxon spokesman Richard Keil was eviscerated by an interviewer who politely accepted no […]


  9. […] Here is a good NPR interview by Bob Garfield of Richard Kyle, an ExxonMobil spokesman.  I found this piece at Peter Sinclair’s Climate Denial Crock of the Week. […]


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