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Top Ten Documents Every Reporter Covering Exxon-Mobil Should Know


If you are a reporter covering ExxonMobil and the unfolding #ExxonKnew investigations underway in several states, the story can get very complex. Exxon is claiming it did nothing wrong. Exxon's paid accomplices are martyring themselves and screaming about the First Amendment.

We thought we would take it back to basics - the source documents. We created an online file cabinet of the key documents that have been revealed by investigative journalists over the past nine months and those in our Exxon archives from 25 years of watching the climate denial machine at work. We will add documents as they arrive on our desks.

Gilbert's picture
Apr. 7, 2016 5:06 am


Here's a working link:

Top Ten Documents Every Reporter Covering Exxon-Mobil Should Know

Along with the above quoted intro, anyone interested in having this history in their argumentative arsenal might want to digest and understand the following three basic phases:

There are three basic phases to this story.

What Exxon knew and when they knew it - The crux of what was revealed in the fall and winter of 2015 by the Inside Climate News investigation and the Columbia University/ Los Angeles Times collaboration is extensive new evidence that Exxon and the rest of the oil industry had a more thorough understanding of climate science in the 1970s and 1980s than had previously been realized. And that they also understood the policy and economic implications of the climate threat. Further revelations by DeSmog in April 2016 confirmed Exxon's unequivocal knowledge in the late 1970s that "there is no doubt that increases in fossil fuel usage" were problematic for climate, and that these facts were known across Exxon's global operations. This serves as a new backdrop for what happened next.

What Exxon did to block rising concern about climate change - This phase starts in the late 1980s, heats up in the mid 1990s and extends into the late 2000s, changing shape and tone with increased governmental attention to the climate threat. Here there are key documents showing Exxon's (and Mobil's and later ExxonMobil's) ringleader role in driving the corporate campaign against advancing national and international policies to avert dangerous climate change.

What Exxon would like hide from investigators now - Exxon executed a turn about a decade ago with clever PR tactics, declaring that they had always known about climate change but had been "misunderstood". This is detailed extensively in Steve Coll's increasingly important book Private Empire (see chapter 15 "On my honor"). Between 2006 and 2008, the company began to mark its words on climate change more carefully and abruptly stopped funding multiple non-profit organizations and front groups it had been coordinating to apply pressure in the public policy arena by attacking climate science, climate scientists and elected officials who took up the charge. This campaign ramped up after the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and escalated during the first 5 years of the Bush Administration.

On a personal note, I like to keep in mind that ExxonMobil is not a person. It's an institution.

Institutions are not thinking beings, they are managed by thinking beings who are trying to solve various management problems. Some of those problems have to do with public relations, some have to do with making a profit and satisfying other thinking beings who invest their money in this institution.

To say that Exxon knows something, tries to hide something, and so forth, is to use language in a very simplified, humanizing way, to express something structural -- more like mechanically structural -- and complex in its rationally mechanistic organization. The result is the creation of an image of a thinking entity in place of what we are really dealing with, which is actually a kind of complex technology; that is: a modern, transnational corporate institution, with many parts and many compartments doing a variety of things at the same time in a structured, managed environment.

.ren's picture
Apr. 1, 2010 7:50 am

So what's the end game here? A tobacco company analog with huge settlement paid out by Exxon? NOt if you read the publicly available information that Exxon has generated over the years.

But nobody here will read the Exxon climate research. If you want to understand this issue you would. But you wont. You will read the titilatting attempts to create a tobacco industry analog out of this. That will never happen- because of what is in the research papers.

If you read them you will see that they completely undercut the allegations made by InsideClimate News about ExxonMobil – allegations echoed by activists like Bill McKibben and Naomi Oreskes.

McKibben, for instance, wrote, “Exxon knew all that there was to know about climate change decades ago, and instead of alerting the rest of us denied the science and obstructed the politics of global warming.”

But if you read the documents, it will become clear the opposite is true. Or rather, it will be come clear that Exxon knew that climate science is filled with uncertainty and that there are no feasable actions to take to make even the most insignificant affect on the climate.

Reading the documents shows that these RICO allegations are based on deliberately cherry-picked statements attributed to various ExxonMobil employees to wrongly suggest definitive conclusions were reached decades ago by company researchers. These statements were taken completely out of context and ignore other readily available scientific works demonstrating that Exxon researchers runderstanding of climate science at the time mirrored global understanding.

So read them. Or no, better is to rely on InsideClimate News “reporting” and analysis". They know better than you. You progs like your authorities to set your mind right. NO need to do the hard stuff.

And while you are at it, don't check out this 10-page document listing the over 50 peer-reviewed articles on climate research and related policy analysis from ExxonMobil scientists from 1983 to the present. PUBLIC. PEER REVIEWED. PUBLISHED. That is where these cracker jack investigative reporters are getting their leads on these "secret" "hidden" documents. Yes, Exxon carefully hid this information away in published scientific journals. Crafty, no?

stwo's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote stwo:

But nobody here will read the Exxon climate research. If you want to understand this issue you would. But you wont. You will read the titilatting attempts to create a tobacco industry analog out of this. That will never happen- because of what is in the research papers.

Is that a fact?

End games? Hmmm. i don't really claim to know what "the game" is, that's kind of a frame-the-issue concept; it assumes there is a game of some kind with an ending. That's a kind of Finite and Infinite Games issue of its own. My own interest is to become as informed as possible about human civilization, which I see as something immensely complex, and increasingly complexifying, which in the past has proven to be the downfall of many so-called "great" civilizations. I have no idea what exact result my being informed will come to but that's my interest, anyway. I don't know about anyone else.

Here's another from Exxon's Media/global/files on their efforts towards a "constructive and informed dialog with a wide variety of stake holders":

Energy and Carbon -- Managing the Risks

As detailed below, ExxonMobil makes long - term investment decisions based in part on our rigorous, comprehensive annual analysis of the global outlook for energy , an analysis that has repeatedly proven to be consistent with the International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook , the U.S. Energy Information Administration Annual Energy Outlook , and other reputable, independent sources . For several years, our Outlook for Energy has explicitly accounted for the prospect of policies regulating greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). This factor, among many others, has informed investments decisions that have led ExxonMobil to become the leading producer of cleaner - burning natural gas in the United States, for example.

Based on this analysis, we are confident that none of our hydrocarbon reserves are now or will become “stranded.” We believe producing these assets is essential to meeting growing energy demand worldwide, and in preventing consumers – especially those in the least developed and most vulnerable economies – from themselves becoming stranded in the global pursuit of higher living standards and greater economic opportunity.

Like I said ExxonMobile, as an institution, can also be looked at as a kind of complex technology with a wide range of problem solving compartments, all aimed at keeping the private, for-profit institution itself financially infinitely viable (speaking of end games). It was once my profession and business as a contractor to provide research for such institutions as a strategic planning consultant, so I have some familiarity with what they engage in when it comes to "contributing" to the climate change dialog, and I can offer a somewhat informed reading of their public relations contributions as well. Here's a footnote from another document, Energy and Climate, that illustrates how ExxonMobile's managers look at their problem solving involved in keeping their source of income viable:

As used in this document, “ExxonMobil” means Exxon Mobil Corporation and/or one or more of its affiliated companies. Statements of future events or conditions in this report are forward - looking statements. Actual future results, including economic conditions and growth rates; energy demand and supply sources; efficiency gains; and capital expenditures, could differ materially due to factors including technological developments; changes in law or regulation; the development of new supply sources; demographic changes; and other factors discussed herein and under the heading “Factors Affecting Future Results” in the Investors section of our website at: www.exxonmobil.com. The information provided includes ExxonMobil’ s internal estimates and forecasts based upon internal data and analyses, as well as publicly available information from external sources including the International Energy Agency. Citations in this document are used for purposes of illustration and reference only and any citation to outside sources does not necessarily mean that ExxonMobil endorses all views or opinions expressed in or by those sources.

.ren's picture
Apr. 1, 2010 7:50 am

The public can sue all Exxon Shareholders as complicit to mass genocide and crimes against humanity. Also , the Exxon Board can be held for not caring about the wellbeing of the shareholder. Exxon you might presume to be consistantly oil, right? Its a business decision to stay in oil. They could just as well get into gaming or GMOs. To stay in fossil fuels is an incompetent business decision. So they weren't looking out for the shareholder like that either. AND the state that Exxon is in.. Texas , can be held for negligence and endangering public welfare.

Its better to pin it on Texas than USgov since tx conservatives would circumvent regulation as they have. When people say Texas is pro business; its a cooked book. The law books and regulation as not charged for , aren't happening. We could even sue texas for voting the garbage in since Lyndon Johnson. Their politicians are awful. Back to the topic though. Texas saying its pro business is like Fukushima power plant saying it offers free heating by not keeping the radioactive rods shielded.

KeyStonerMikkiForUSPrez45's picture
May. 17, 2016 1:25 am

Can the Presidency Regain Its Integrity After Trump?

Thom plus logo Even those of us old enough to remember have probably forgotten that in the spring of 1979 the Attorney General of the United States appointed a special prosecutor to look into his own president's ownership of his peanut warehouse, to make sure that he wasn't, in any way, making money from his presidency.
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