Viridian Note 00246: ExxonMobil: Climate Villain

Bruce Sterling []

Key concepts
Thomas L. Friedman, ExxonMobil, Stop Esso, consumer boycotts, New York Times, Kyoto treaty, foreign policy

Attention Conservation Notice: A lot of doomsaying and vitriol for some oil company.

Entries in the Viridian Hot Rod Contest:

From:^^^** (Ben Davis)

This contest ends July 5, 02001.

Links: Thomas Friedman's swell book THE LEXUS AND THE OLIVE TREE, a tome leftists hate so much they have to call Friedman bad names instead of refuting his evidence. Thrill as Bianca Jagger brazenly beats up the biggest corporation in the world! Watch Democratic Party operatives befoul the Bush Administration by tarring them with the oil brush! Marvel as brave little Christian Austinites make all the noise against Exxon that their tiny numbers will allow! Ground zero for the bitter resentment of every nation in the world, including the USA! The Global Climate Coalition is sounding rather more panicked than usual. They've come up with a new logo, too.

Thomas Friedman, New York Times, Foreign Affairs column, June 1, O2001


"A Tiger by the Tail


"And now for a wild prediction. Within 12 months President

Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and all their backers in
the oil industry will be begging == begging == to revive
the Kyoto protocol on climate change, the accord Mr. Bush
yanked America out of after taking office."

((("Begging"? No way! They might, however, cover Tom Daschle's South Dakota in windmills. Their best tactic at this point is to go private-sector green, and *greener than Kyoto,* which, given Kyoto's pathetic treaty targets, would not really be that hard. An American wind boom would be faster and cheaper than Cheney's energy policy. Even Enron, the ultimate Bush energy company, has an Enron

Wind arm. Most every company that's serious about energy
has hedged their Kyoto bets with some green power ==
except for ExxonMobil, that is.)))

    "Why, you ask? Well, look what's happening in England. A group of celebrities there have joined with environmentalists to launch a boycott against Exxon Mobil gas stations, which in Europe go by the name Esso. Bianca Jagger, the pop star Annie Lennox and Anita Rodrick, founder of the Body Shop chain, helped launch the boycott because, as Ms. Jagger said, 'This is a way to tell Esso that it's not right for them to be claiming that there is no connection between CO2 emissions and climate change.'"

(((So Europeans have finally had the good sense to beat up Americans rather than BP and Shell, the Viridian darlings among oil titans. The problem is that these pop-stars just want their Kyoto back. That's not good enough. These clowns at Exxon have blundered massively. No company that reckless and stupid should be allowed to survive.)))

    "People connected with Exxon reportedly contributed more than $1 million to the Bush campaign. (((Yep!))) Exxon is a key supporter of research and advertisements that try to cast doubt on the seriousness of global warming and its link to fossil fuel emissions. (((They bet the farm on denial politics.))) Exxon was a big backer of President Bush's decision to pull the U.S. out of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which called for industrialized nations to steadily reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. (((That's the smoking gun that has finally made ExxonMobil the public face of global warming.))) Exxon is also a major force behind the Global Climate Coalition, a business lobby that opposed Kyoto. (((Here is where it gets personal for us Viridians. That's the GCC, folks, the world's biggest whirlwind of black climate spin. Everything that breathes will be much better off when the GCC ceases to be.)))

    "The 'Stop Esso Campaign' is asking British drivers to shun Esso stations until the company supports Kyoto (see The campaign recently spread to France. (((Naturally we should all "shun Esso," but boycotts are not Viridian. This is because they flunk the "Viridian Grandfather Principle," in that your dead grandfather is even better at boycotting Esso than you are, because he's dead. The Viridian version of this activity is to boycott Exxon and buy from Shell and BP. This tactic increases the disparity between Exxon and its market competition. This is rather likelier to lead to Exxon's stock tanking and the well-deserved firing of current Exxon CEO Lee R. Raymond. Whereas the Stop Esso campaign merely wants Exxon to recant its heresy. Big deal.)))

    "What's funny is that probably none of this would have happened had Mr. Bush not bowed to the oil companies and pulled the U.S. out of Kyoto. That may turn out to be his greatest gift to environmentalism. (((Oh, I'm sure he can come up with even greater gifts. Another Three Mile Island, for instance.)))

    "You see, as long as everyone was discussing how to implement Kyoto, no one wanted to take any radical steps. (((Exactly.))) Governments could say they were working

on the problem, but that negotiations were hard. (((That
is why European politicos hate Bush now == because he
stole their political figleaf.))) Corporations could
mumble nice words about environmentalism, but not worry
anything serious was going to happen.

    (((Something serious is going to happen. What might this mean for you, if you work for Exxon nowadays? Well, whenever people are choking on smoke and bailing seawater, they're gonna pick on you. Show some common sense and get the hell away from this doomed enterprise. It doesn't matter that they've got deep pockets and they own the government this season; they're gonna end up indicted just like those goons at Elf-Aquitaine. Go work for Shell.)))

    "And environmentalists could feel their cause was being advanced, even though implementation was far off. (((The grand Green delusion; it's better to feel good than to get results.)))

    "'As long as Kyoto was there, everyone could avoid real accountability and pretend that something was happening,' says Paul Gilding, the former head of Greenpeace and now chairman of Ecos, one of Australia's leading environmental consulting firms. 'But now George Bush, by trashing Kyoto, has blown everyone's cover. If you care about the environment you can't pretend anymore. Emissions are increasing, the climate is changing and people can now see for themselves that the world is fiddling while Rome burns.' (((Not only can they see Rome burning, but now they know who to indict as the burning spreads out of control. National governments can't very well indict themselves. But a hated, bankrupt company once called ExxonMobil? How are they gonna hire lawyers? Where are they gonna hide?)))

    "The result: Environmentalists refuse to sit on their hands anymore. Instead, the smart ones are mobilizing

consumers to fight multinational polluters on their own
ground. You have to admire it. It's so Republican ==
using the free market. (((Tom, if it were Republican, it
wouldn't be done to American multinationals by angry

"If I were Exxon, I would be worried == especially
when U.S. college students come back to campus in the
fall. Remember Monsanto? (((Why yes we do, actually. How
kind of you to bring them up.))) It was going to sell
genetically modified food to Europeans. But
environmentalists in Europe == worried, rightly or
wrongly, about the safety of what they were eating ==
mobilized the weakest link in the value chain: consumers.
Consumers demanded 'G.M.O.-free' food. So supermarkets
demanded it from their suppliers, suppliers demanded it

from farmers and farmers demanded it from Monsanto. Goodbye, Monsanto.

    "This is real globalization activism. 'The smart

activists are now saying, "O.K., You want to play markets
== let's play," ' says Mr. Gilding. They don't waste time
throwing stones or lobbying governments. (((Actually,
they do throw stones, they do lobby governments, and
they play markets, but Friedman would prefer them to knock
it off with one and two, which are unseemly, and

concentrate on three, which he knows how to cover as a journalist.))) That takes forever and can easily be counter-lobbied by corporations. (((Once they get the

hang of it, oil corporations do a lot more than just
"counter-lobby" == they buy political parties outright,
like Elf-Aquitaine did in France and Germany even before
Exxon did it in the USA.))) No, no, no. They start with
consumers at the pump, get them to pressure the gas
stations, get the station owners to pressure the

companies and the companies to pressure governments.

    (((Gee, that tactic might work, Tom! You might, for instance, walk into an Exxon gas station, and ask the clerk "Had any serious trouble here yet? Indictments, lawsuits, people throwing rocks, any of that stuff?" When she says "No," act all surprised.)))

    "After all, consumers do have choices where they buy their gas, and there are differences now. Shell and BP- Amoco (which is also the world's biggest solar company) both withdrew from the oil industry lobby that has been dismissing climate change. ((("BP-ExxonMobil" has got a nice ring to it; somebody's gotta buy up all of Exxon's dead hardware at the global garage sale.)))

    "What Mr. Bush did in trashing Kyoto was to leave serious environmental activists with nowhere else to turn but the market. (((And the war-crimes courts, but that's

a couple decades on.))) The smart ones get it. You will
be hearing from them soon == at a gas station near you."

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