Between the UN Climate Summit, the People’s Climate March, the news that this past September was the hottest on record, LEGO severing ties with Shell, record-setting lawsuits against BP, and increasingly firm stances on climate change by the U.S. Departments of State and Defense, it’s never been harder to work in PR for a petroleum company.
This is the narrative that seems to motivate Exxon Mobil’s latest blog post, at least, a 1,300 word editorial that lashes out at the fossil fuels divestment movement, with Exxon calling it “out of step with reality.”
October has been a strong month for divestment. Yesterday, the city of Orebro became the first city in Sweden to fully divest from fossil fuels, and earlier this month the University of Glasgow became the first European university to divest from fossil fuels.
The post by Ken Cohen, Exxon Mobil’s VP of Public and Government affairs, is entitled “Some Thoughts on Divestment,” and it accuses the divestment movement of being, “a diversion from the real search for technological solutions to managing climate risks that energy companies like ours are pursuing.”
Cohen goes on to write, “The industry-driven natural-gas boom in the United States is Exhibit A in this regard,” citing statistics that note that greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. were down in 2012 by 3.8 percent, the lowest figures since 1994.
Exxon Mobil claims the divestment movement is slowing the pace of clean energy growth and threatening the whole of social progress by reducing access to electricity for developing populations.
Cohen writes, “The chief reality this [divestment] movement ignores is that access to reliable and abundant sources of energy is the linchpin for societal progress… The modern world in which we live – and that many often take for granted – is a world of electricity, transport, trade, labor-saving inventions, and profoundly improved health.”
Exxon Mobil, a multinational oil and gas company, believes that fossil fuels are the only viable option at this point in time to power our rapidly growing world. They dismiss solar, wind, hydroelectric and geothermal energy as representing too small a market share, noting that renewable energy sources comprised only 13 percent of energy sources in 2009, and provided their own estimates for the future of renewable energy.
Cohen writes, “Most estimates suggest that…renewables’ contribution to the global energy mix in 2040 is expected to be about 15 percent – not much more than today.” Meanwhile, figures from the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century claim that, in 2011, renewable comprised approximately 19 percent of total global energy consumption.
Exxon Mobil, which earlier this year faced a lawsuit that asserted it had illegally released more than 8 million pounds of pollutants in violation of federal clean air laws between 2005 and 2010, also expressed concern about the dangers of air pollution. Cohen noted that air pollution caused by the use of “pre-modern energy sources in people’s homes” is a leading cause of death, and referred back to a previous post which cited a study from the World Health Organization that states 4.3 million people died in 2012 from household air pollution.
Neither post elaborated on the causes of the 3.7 million deaths cited by the WHO as caused by outdoor air pollution in 2012.
“Excessive air pollution is often a by-product of unsustainable policies in sectors such as transport, energy, waste management and industry,” says says Dr Carlos Dora, WHO Coordinator for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “In most cases, healthier strategies will also be more economical in the long term due to health-care cost savings as well as climate gains.”
Proponents of divestment rejected Exxon Mobil’s claims in the blog post. “Divestment advocates have been clear from the start that the divestment campaign is about calling into question the industry’s ‘social license’ to operate. In this regard, divestment is a highly appropriate debate, and highly reality-based,” Reverend Fletcher Harper, executive director of GreenFaith, told the National Journal.
“This is the oil industry saying ‘please don’t be mean to me’ after bullying vulnerable communities around the globe for decades,” said Anastasia Schemkes of the Sierra Student Coalition, as reported by the National Journal.
Exxon Mobil, the second largest publicly traded company in the United States, has given more than $27 million since 1998 to organizations that deny climate change or fight clean energy policies. As of this writing, ExxonMobil was the second largest corporate polluting entity in human history, accounting for 3.22 percent of global CO2 emissions between 1751 and 2010, according to a 2013 study in according to a 2013 study in the journal Climatic Change.