The plan packaging legislation that passed this week through Parliament got me thinking.
In 1977, one of Exxon’s senior scientists noted that “the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.”
You can check out the extent to which they had researched and buried this at the Twitter hashtag #ExxonKnew.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has been asked to launch a federal racketeering investigation of Exxon. You may recall the image of all those tobacco companies lying in unison.
U.S. Democratic Representatives Ted Lin and Mark DeSaulnier, together with a whole bunch of activist grounps like the Environmental Defence Fund and the Sierra Club, are also trying to get the Securities and Exchange Commission to launch a fraud probe against Exxon.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has opened a formal investigation into whether Exxon has misled investors and regulators about climate change. Exxon has so far turned over 1 million internal documents.
Granted, Exxon is probably quaking in its boots as much as Apple is about its Euro tax bill. And it’s too soon to say how much of a danger any investigation into Exxon poses. They are bigger and more powerful than all but the largest countries.
They should probably ask Big Tobacco. That’s how you learn the hard way. This week, New Zealand passed its tobacco plain packaging law. Big warning on every packet, no branding, plus of course higher and higher taxes every year, and products available only from age-restricted lockups. The same applied to petrol would be quite a change at the local petrol station.
Leftie dream? ExxonMobil as the Philip Morris of climate liability? Well, few thought Keystone Pipeline would die. Few thought Paris 20 would success. And this week the two biggest national polluters signed a major agreement. Who’da thought?
The comparison of Big Oil to Big Tobacco was started by the Union of Concerned Scientists several years ago. Exxon in turn is well versed in founding custom-built disinformation NGOs. It’s game on for civilization-scale addiction.
Stories of corporate attack worthy of legendary Jeffrey Wygand (see The Insider) will keep coming – such as shutting down attacks from weak small island states. The Virgin Islands had a go, and Exxon argued successfully against constraints to their free speech rights as a company.
It’s also possible there will be no final schadenfreude, no final accountability to petro companies or their petro-client-states. The Good may not prevail.
In the end, social marketing over years, higher and higher taxes that force substitutes, grinding regulation, and education, are the surest end to them both.