Q. If an inaugural gala is sponsored by ExxonMobil, can it still be green?

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"Q. If an inaugural gala is sponsored by ExxonMobil, can it still be green?"

A. No.

The NYT reported yesterday on tonight’s two big “Green Galas”:

The first gala is being held by Al Gore, the former vice president and Nobel laureate. His event is also joined by a no-compromise crowd long frustrated with the Bush administration. Among them, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council….

[No, I’m not attending. I’m going to the “traditional” energy & environmental inaugural ball tomorrow.]

The second gala is being held by the International Conservation Caucus Foundation, comprising the goliaths of international and animal wildlife conservation like the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Federation.

[Note to NYT, on climate at least, WWF is more no-compromise than NRDC (see “NRDC and EDF endorse the weak, coal-friendly, rip-offset-heavy USCAP climate plan).”]

Inexcusably, “Exxon Mobil is a prominent sponsor of the event.” The oil giant has spent millions of dollars over the years as a principal sponsor of the global warming disinformation campaign aimed at stopping efforts to conserve a livable climateeven after they said they stopped such funding. Chris Mooney has an excellent piece on ExxonMobil‘s two-decade anti-scientific campaign (see also posts on Heritage and CEI and AEI).

It is simply unconscionable for any major conservation-based event (or group, for that matter) to take money from them. ExxonMobil is one the world’s greatest enemies of conservation for three reasons:

  1. The entire oil production and delivery system is a major destroyer of wildlife and ecosystems, as ExxonMobil has demonstrated more famously than any other oil company with the Valdez spill.
  2. Unrestricted emissions of greenhouse gases — driven by the use of oil itself and by the company’s disinformation campaign — is the single greatest threat to the goals of conservation. On our current emissios path, we are on track to wipe out 40% to 70% of the planet’s species (as the IPCC concluded in 2007), turn the ocean into a hot, acidic dead zone and generally ruin the planet for all (surviving) species, including ours (see “Hadley Center: Catastrophic 5-7°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path“).
  3. Strong action on global warming is probably the best way — make that, the only way – to drive the level of funding and action needed to directly save the tropical forests. Only a high price for CO2 that correctly values the carbon-sink benefit provided by the vegetation and soil can provide a viable alternative to simply cutting down every last tree in the name of economic growth.

But here is the list of event sponsors proudly displayed on the ICCF website:

iccf.jpg

Yes, a few of the other sponsors might trouble some, but none of them are in the league of ExxonMobil — the Al-Qaeda of anti-conservation.

The non-green gala has other non-green elements:

Roses will be flown in from Ecuador. Marinated beef is being flown in from Texas to Virginia, where it will be grilled and then trucked to the auditorium.

Wow, that’s a two-fer — beef and air shipment!

While in general I don’t think individuals or groups should obsess about these kind of individual actions, it’s absurd for an environmental or conservation organization to flaunt unsustainability:

“We are not into symbolism,” David H. Barron, the caucus president, said unapologetically. “We are focused on a much bigger impact.”

Mr. Barron says that personal efforts to lower energy use are admirable; he himself uses low-energy LED’s at home. But more gets done to protect the environment, he says, when big corporations get involved in a committed way.

This may explain why Exxon Mobil is a prominent sponsor of the event.

Has any company had a bigger negative impact on conservation efforts? I don’t think so.

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23 Responses to Q. If an inaugural gala is sponsored by ExxonMobil, can it still be green?

  1. Russ says:

    “We are not into symbolism,” David H. Barron, the caucus president, said unapologetically. “We are focused on a much bigger impact.”

    It seems to me the symbolism is all too apparent.

    The high impacts as well.

  2. Page van der Linden says:

    I’ve been sitting here trying to come up with a clever, snarky comment, or just an intelligent one, but I can’t.

    All I can say is that if anyone falls for this sort of hamhanded attempt at greenwashing, they’re terminally stupid.

  3. David B. Benson says:

    The new ExxonMobil prez wants to change the company’s image.

  4. JCH says:

    A corporation is simply people. The people who work for ExxonMobil attended the same schools, watched the same movies and TV shows, and read the same books. They are not the spawn of Satan. Lee Raymond is gone. The new guy is no saint, but they are changing.

    With respect to the Valdez, can you point out any incidents in hydrocarbon transportation by ExxonMobil since then? What are they doing with respect to flaring? Methane leakage? Things like that. I believe their record is actually become much better. There have been lots of spills since then. ExxonMobil’s name does not come up very often.

    Their CEO recently endorsed carbon taxation as a means of reducing CO2 emissions.

    They have invented a tire that is lighter and that retain pressure better. If they are correct, it could reduce CO2 emissions as those traits cause better fuel mileage, and better electric mileage.

    Their collaboration with scientists at Stanford have produced a film for batteries that may extend the range of electric cars electric cars, and make their batteries cheaper.

  5. OtherJoe says:

    Great post. Bogus carbon offsets, purchased at a discount because they are bogus, are another attempt at appearing green. Unfortunately some well-meaning people are easily duped by claims of carbon neutrality, so we need more efforts to shine bright lights on this kind of thing, carefully showing what is bogus and what is truly “green”.

    Questions regarding this idea:

    “Strong action on global warming is probably the best way — make that, the only way – to drive the level of funding and action needed to directly save the tropical forests. Only a high price for CO2 that correctly values the carbon-sink benefit provided by the vegetation and soil can provide a viable alternative to simply cutting down every last tree in the name of economic growth.”

    How can we estimate that correct value as accurately as possible so as to put the proper price on carbon? This is a job for natural resource economists, is it not? How do you reconcile this important point with your recent stance on economists being part of the problem? Also, you seem to be advocating a carbon tax here. Off topic, but what is your stance on that vs. cap-n-trade?

    -AnOtherJoe

  6. TomG says:

    ExxonMobil green?
    How bizarre…
    I suspect there will be a very visible dividing line at this gala.
    Greens on one side….green-wash on the other.
    Will there be a metal detector at the door?

  7. The Ho Conservancy, Y'mean says:

    I hear Elliot Spitzer will introduce Cheney as the keynote speaker, followed by the Bush Interior Department Lap Dancers.

    We Ho for the Environment.

    David Barron, TNC, WWF and anyone involved in this scam, there are such things as lines. Deals with business, ok. Deals with EXXON — come off it. You are not part of any environmental or conservation movement I care to associate with or give money to. Exxon is the largest single corporate greenhouse gas source on the planet, the funder of years of global warming denier lies, and a strong supporter of the Bush/Cheney/DeLay/Inhofe right. FU and the horse you rode in on.

  8. The Ho Conservancy, Y'mean says:

    Russ Says:

    January 19th, 2009 at 12:51 pm
    “We are not into symbolism,” David H. Barron, the caucus president, said unapologetically. “We are focused on a much bigger impact.”

    It seems to me the symbolism is all too apparent.

    The high impacts as well.
    ———-

    Yeah I loved the Barron quote. David, ya put up a big ExxonMobil banner, people don’t need much instruction about what you’re into. It’s called prostitution.

  9. Brendan says:

    At Stanford, the Energy seminar consists mostly of speakers talking about the challenges of global warming, or the geopolitical evils of oil. This event is sponsored by Chevron. No speaker I have heard has spoke favorably about fossil fuels, and the selection committee does not seem to be shying away from controversial people. Should the energy seminar refuse Chevron’s money on principal and be forced to find another donor? Seems to me like it’s taking the money and running.

  10. Hey JHC. “A corporation is simply people.”? Nope.

    It most certainly is NOT. It is stockholders. And it follows the charter of the state that grants it’s right to exist.

    And it is required to do what stockholders want – usually that mean just make lots of money for the stockholders. And then the corporate staff of “simply people” will carry out that mandate to the fullest with the most ruthless and competitive spirit. Sometimes, beyond the law.

    If the cost benefits of some illegal acts can yield sufficient profit, and the penalty is slight – then it is expected that profit should be gathered up. Then stockholders expect that to be done.

    One way to change all this is to change the corporate charter… in most cases the state of Delaware charters corporations. But all states should change their charters.

  11. jcwinnie says:

    RT @jejacquot: “Great opportunity for a re-make http://tinyurl.com/9946m6

  12. TNCSellsOut says:

    Exxon has had a shareholders’ blog. You want to hear serious global warming deniers and environmentalist-haters, I never saw more of them in my life than I saw on that blog. If the groups involved in the Sellout/Scammers Ball are going to work seriously on a climate bill, does it have to be a bill ExxonMobil likes? ExxonMobil liked Cheney.

  13. TNCSellsOut says:

    David B. Benson Says:

    January 19th, 2009 at 2:37 pm
    The new ExxonMobil prez wants to change the company’s image.
    ==

    Great. Come clean about your years of funding global warming denier propaganda, which is well documented, pay reparations for the enormous environmental damage you’ve already caused, support strong, immediate measures to end greenhouse gas emissions, and phase out your petroleum sales as quickly as possible in favor of safe, renewable energy.

  14. Steve Bloom says:

    OT: Joe, I just happened across this paper by Alan Carlin, a “senior EPA economist” (I didn’t even know EPA had economists). He believes that emissions reduction is doomed to failure, and so advocates injecting aerosols into the atmospheric to solve the warming problem (but leaving ocean acidification for the future). Anyway, this guy is obviously a problem to the extent he has any influence. He may be worth an addendum to your series on economists.

    [JR: Need a link.]

  15. Steve Bloom says:

    Richard, for some reason JCH’s comment put me in mind of the Soylent Green Corporation.

  16. john says:

    JHC:

    One of the amazing things I’ve noted in over 30 years in the environmental field is how individual people of reasonable character can behave in abhorrent ways when they are in a collective context. Almost like a mob with bow ties, there seems to be a protection when folks are acting as a group.

    Love Canal is a classic example. One of the primary architects of it was a church-going community volunteer.

    So yes, Exxon executive’s kids go to the same schools etc, but don’t for a minute believe that they are mainstream in morality as a result.

  17. jorleh says:

    Looks like Devil taking Christ up in the clouds.

    You Americans are incredible people.

  18. JCH says:

    Lee Raymond, the man who determined what ExxonMobil did with respect to Global Warming, went to the public schools in Watertown, South Dakota. His father was a railroad engineer – the kind who drives the train. Raymond was exceptionally bright, and he got a PhD in science from a Big-10 school.

    He’s gone.

  19. TNCSellsOut says:

    Changing CEOs does not a green company make. ExxonMobil owes the world an open, accurate accounting of what it secretly did to fund climate deniers. It has profited more than any company from the emissions that cause global warming, and has a correspondingly greater responsibility to act. And for TNC WWF and CI to put Exxon’s banner up at their event is a giant statement to the public that Exxon is ok — Exxon is green. Thats a bought-and-paid-for lie.

  20. JCH says:

    What they have said is they give money to organizations. They disclose what they are required to disclose. They claim they do not control what these organizations say and do other than by making an evaluation each year as whether to give money again or not.

    With respect to Global Warming, their decisions were/are (the continuation of funding to Heartland is despicable) horrendous. If they had used such low scientific standards to find oil, they would be bankrupt. That is one of the ironies. ExxonMobil, and Lee Raymond, are about as good at using the scientific method as it gets – except on Global Warming, where they tossed the scientific method out the window for the work of cranks and crackpots.

    I would just say, as a shareholder in around a dozen publicly traded energy companies, people are enormously exaggerating the control of shareholders. ExxonMobil was run by Lee Raymond. The board was satisfied with him, and, in a general sense, so were the vast majority of the shareholders, but nobody ever told Lee Raymond what to do. He was the boss, period, and there was no doubt about that in anybody’s mind. He is one of the most intellectually intimidating men with whom you are ever likely to deal – a fierce oddball with no handles.

    The new boss is Rex. Since his ascendency, ExxonMobil has changed tactics. Whether they’ve changed strategy remains to be seen. They definitely needed to.

  21. David B. Benson says:

    TNCSellsOut — Great. Tell that to the new prez.

    I didn’t write that he wants to change substance, nor make amends.

  22. Jay Alt says:

    RE;
    Steve Bloom Says:
    January 19th, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    [ JR: need a link ]
    Joe –
    I’ve run across Alan Carlin stuff before. He’s had a long career at EPA.
    http://carlineconomics.googlepages.com/

  23. TNCSellsOut says:

    I say Cheney was in a wheelchair so nobody’d see him being snuck in as guest of honor at the ICCF/Nature Conservancy/WWF/CI ExxonMobil Ball.