An article in The Guardian yesterday by Oliver Milman called “Criticism intensifies after big oil admits ‘gaslighting’ public over green aims” does not paint the fossil fuel industry in a good light. Here are a few paragraphs, but I encourage you to link the article below.
“Criticism in the US of the oil industry’s obfuscation over the climate crisis is intensifying after internal documents showed companies attempted to distance themselves from agreed climate goals, admitted ‘gaslighting’ the public over purported efforts to go green, and even wished critical activists be infested by bedbugs.
The communications were unveiled as part of a congressional hearing held in Washington DC, where an investigation into the role of fossil fuels in driving the climate crisis produced documents obtained from the oil giants ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and BP…
The new documents are ‘the latest evidence that oil giants keep lying about their commitments to help solve the climate crisis and should never be trusted by policymakers,’ said Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity.
‘If there is one thing consistent about the oil and gas majors’ position on climate, it’s their utter inability to tell the truth,’ Wiles added.
Ro Khanna, co-chair of the committee, said the new documents are ‘explosive’ and show a ‘culture of intense disrespect’ to climate activists. The oil giants’ ‘climate pledges rely on unproven technology, accounting gimmicks and misleading language to hide the reality,’ he added. ‘Big oil executives are laughing at the people trying to protect our planet while they knowingly work to destroy it.'”
These revelations are not surprising but are alarming. It should be noted shareholders of Exxon Mobil voted to require management to inform them on the progress toward fighting climate change, the vote occurring the day before the former president pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Change Accord. The proof though is in the pudding. To me it is a culture of window dressing – making it look like management is doing something but really not as much as it seems.
Yet, for those who simply cannot believe Big Oil would do this, let me remind that eight CEOs of the tobacco industry sat in a panel in front of a Congressional Committee and lied to a direct question. The lie they covered up is they all knew nicotine was addictive dating back thirty years. Let me remind that per the movie “Dark Waters,” Dupont knew that making Teflon was harmful to people, including their own workers, and hid that fact. And, after losing a data-centric arbitration case, they reneged on paying restitution to people. They then lost successive lawsuits to individuals for multiple millions of dollars before settling all the cases.
It amazes me that leadership of these (and other) organizations are so protective of their brand, they avoid doing the right thing. They would rather hide it and hope their secret is never discovered. In the end, they are more harmful to their brand than coming out and admitting the truth. Compare what these companies did to what Johnson and Johnson did when someone was poisoning Tylenol capsules in the grocery stores. They admitted their own failure and acted quickly to make protective seals, setting off a larger trend in industry.
Gaslighting is not a flattering word. When we see these feel good commercials on TV put forth by the oil companies, we need to take them with a large grain of salt. They may just what it seems – window dressing.