Thursday, May 3, 2012

ExxonMobil Were Playing Both Ways On Global Warming All Along

Fresh Air has an absolutely fascinating interview with journalist Steve Coll who has written a new book on ExxonMobil.

For many years ExxonMobil engaged in a campaign to downplay the human role in global warming and tried to discredit the science of recent climate change.

And yet:

GROSS: Just one more thing about climate change. During the period when ExxonMobil was trying to defeat global warming science, at the same time scientists within Exxon were trying to figure out, well, if the planet is warming, how can we profit from that? So they work in both fronts at the same time.

COLL: Well, that's right. They're a science-based organization. They employ a lot of geologists, and the mission of those geologists is to understand the Earth's structure and how changes in temperatures, geology, technology, could intersect to create opportunities to find oil. And as the book reports, geologists in some of their most important kind of discovery departments were looking at how warming might unlock oil reserves and positioning ExxonMobil with advice about how to think about that.

GROSS: So in other words, Exxon wanted to defeat global science because that says that fossil fuels, burning fossil fuels is warming the climate and creating weather changes and climate change, and that would mean problems for Exxon because it's the fossil fuel industry.

But at the same time, its own scientists were saying, well, it looks like the Earth is warming, so let's see what new oil reserves that might open up to us.

Those new reserves that might open up were under the Arctic sea bed, made more accessible as increased summer melting of the Arctic sea ice makes it easier to explore and eventually exploit those resources.

There are a lot more interesting tidbits in this long interview including ExxonMobil's tussle with the U.S. government over human rights issues in oil rich countries like Chad and the company's increasing interest in unconventional oil and gas resources.

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