Exxon VP Says Climate Change Isn’t THAT Big of a Deal, Undermining Company’s Message to Congress

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Exxon Mobil - Credit: AP
Exxon Mobil - Credit: AP

Less than two weeks after ExxonMobil’s CEO testified to Congress that the company “has long acknowledged the reality and risks of climate change, and … has devoted significant resources to addressing those risks,″ a lobbyist for the company seemed to have undermined some of those claims.

Erik Oswald, a registered lobbyist and vice president for the company, said the climate crisis does not bring “catastrophic inevitable risk” and that the company does not see itself as part of “the climate fix.” The comments came during an event hosted by the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission in Santa Fe, N.M. The Washington Post obtained a recording of the panel from Documented, a watchdog group.

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“Is it catastrophic inevitable risk? Not in my mind. But there is risk,” Oswald said.

“The way we think about this is not as the Crusaders who are the climate fix,” he added. “We’re looking at markets.”

Oswald had been asked by a fellow panelist why the U.S. should put subsidies into carbon capture — technology that captures carbon dioxide from sources like coal-fired power plants, either reusing or storing it to prevent greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere — while other nations are trying to curb emissions or turn to green technologies instead.

“It’s a strange deal for a scientist but people are willing to pay a green premium,” he said. “All around the world they are showing they’re willing to do that. Why they are doing that? That’s another question. There are lots of markets that, I mean people bought sugar-free, there’s all kinds of markets that are unhinged from hard facts.”

In an emailed statement to the Post, Exxon spokesperson Casey Norton said the statements are not in the proper context. “The statements you provided lack appropriate context and are not representative of the company’s positions on important issues, including climate change and carbon capture,” Norton said.

“ExxonMobil has long acknowledged that climate change is real and poses serious risks,” Norton added. “In addition to our substantial investments in next generation technologies, ExxonMobil also advocates for responsible climate-related policies.”

At least one House Democrat wasn’t buying Exxon’s greenwashing at the congressional hearing in October. “They are obviously lying like the tobacco executives were,″ said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who chairs the House Oversight Committee. Maloney and her fellow Democrats have criticized Exxon because another secret recording caught one of its lobbyists bragging that the company used “shadow groups” to thwart climate science and lobbied senators to weaken Biden’s agenda on climate.

A 2017 report from the Climate Accountability Institute found that ExxonMobil accounts for nearly two percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

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