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FOSSIL FUEL PROPONENTS AND PROPAGANDA May 6, 2012

Posted by wmmbb in Global Warming Politics.
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According to the published list of sponsors Exxon Mobil  does not contribute to Heartland Institute, but Microsoft does. These relationships are veiled in secrecy, as is the political clout that Exxon Mobile wields.

Steve Coll who has spent four years investigating Exxon Mobil relates in his recently published book, Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power. Steve Coll is interviewed on NPR describing the organizational culture at Exxon Mobil as comparable to “communism”. Peak Oil, or as they describe it, “reserve replacement” is the source for profound anxiety. They are moving into fracking in a major way.

Jason Tanz at Climate Progess observes:

Coll conducted hundreds of interviews to compile this exhaustive — sometimes exhausting — history of one of the world’s most secretive companies. In piercing Exxon’s crude-black veil, Coll is doing more than describing the inner operations of a successful multinational. He is investigating an organization that, in size and influence, may as well be its own nation with its own sovereign interests — a “corporate state within the American state,” as Coll puts it. In capturing the mind-boggling scope of Exxon’s activity, Coll also offers crash courses in the finer points of oil exploration, the bizarre and brutal history of Equatorial Guinea, the rise of piracy in Nigeria, the eco-guerilla movement, resource management in post-Soviet Russia, the finer points of campaign-finance law, the apportionment of oil field contracts in post-war Iraq, and the battle for Acehnese independence. (NB: This is a much-abridged list.)
It is to Coll’s credit that Raymond never comes across as a moustache-twirling supervillain. He is merely the master of a proudly cloistered society, one that values loyalty and rule-following over free thinking and flexibility. That kind of rigorous mindset is probably necessary to oversee a business as complicated and sprawling as Exxon. Routinely one of the most profitable companies in the U.S. — its quarterly earnings topped $10 billion last year — Exxon’s tradition of consistent financial performance belies the chaos inherent in practically every level of its operations. Like all oil concerns, Exxon is on a constant hunt for “reserve replacement” — finding enough new oil to make up for the huge amount that the company extracts every year — a requirement that has led Exxon into ever more far-flung (and unstable) parts of the world.
At the same time, the size of its balance sheet means that even modest legislative adjustments — a small tax increase, for instance — could result in billions in losses. Factor in the occasional class-action suit, oil leak, or executive kidnapping, and even the least sympathetic reader can have some appreciation for Raymond’s rigid, top-down culture. “[U]nless Raymond used his bully pulpit … to pound hard and even intimidate his employees,” Coll writes, “the natural drift and compromising tendencies of such a large workforce would produce mediocre results.”
Raymond takes a similarly uncompromising attitude toward his many critics. Alternative-energy proponents are dismissed as soft-headed idealists. SEC regulations that conflict with Exxon’s own accounting practices are glibly disregarded in its public statements. Human-rights compacts are refused, not because Exxon doesn’t agree with the ideals behind them but because, in the words of one executive, “We don’t sign on to other people’s principles.” Raymond, in other words, was well suited for the early 21st century Age of American Imperiousness, an attitude best personified by his close friend, Dick Cheney.

And Ken Armstrong, also reviewing the book  in  The Seattle Times writes:

In pursuing its goals — shushing fears about climate change, sounding alarms about punitive damages — ExxonMobil uses all kinds of tactics that could be considered underhanded. Coll details the use of front organizations and how ExxonMobil has employed public-records laws and the IRS to mess with its adversaries.

At the same time, Coll takes pains to be fair. “Private Empire” gives full voice to the challenges and complexities of ExxonMobil’s work, and gives credit when due.

“Exxon Mobil also just signed a contract with Iraqi Drilling Company in Basra to drill 20 oil wells in one of world’s largest undeveloped fields with recoverable oil reserves”. Which answers the question Who won the Iraq war?  The Exxon Mobil system is working too. In the first quarter of this year it registered $9.5 billion in profit, and nobody will argue with the bottom line despite any future problems. Steve Coll was interviewed on Democracy Now (and there will be follow-up interviews)

Joe Romm at Climate Progress is exercised over the efforts of the Heartland Institute to cut through and get their message to their “target audience”, and perhaps he and others on the same band wagon are assisting in the spreading of the message. The electronic billboards located on the Eisenhower Expressway in Chicago were taken down in one day.

He wrote:

The UK Guardian, which broke the story this morning, calls this “possibly one of the most ill-judged poster campaigns in the history of ill-judged poster campaigns.

But let’s be clear. This is not some “oops” moment by an individual overzealous Heartland employee with catastrophically poor judgment. Quite the reverse.

This is a collective act by the Institute expressing its core worldview. These billboards aren’t cheap. A sustained campaign would be a major expense for any group, signed off at the highest levels. Heartland displays the above image on its main website, proudly announcing its campaign and linking to its robust defense of “Our Billboards” on its conference website.

Heartland’s detailed rationalization for its hate speech confirms the very worst views of this right-wing group. I’ll quote it at length since it is so self-discrediting:

Billboards in Chicago paid for by The Heartland Institute point out that some of the world’s most notorious criminals say they “still believe in global warming” – and ask viewers if they do, too…

The billboard series features Ted Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber; Charles Manson, a mass murderer; and Fidel Castro, a tyrant. Other global warming alarmists who may appear on future billboards include Osama bin Laden and James J. Lee (who took hostages inside the headquarters of the Discovery Channel in 2010).

These rogues and villains were chosen because they made public statements about how man-made global warming is a crisis and how mankind must take immediate and drastic actions to stop it.

. . . 

Because what these murderers and madmen have said differs very little from what spokespersons for the United Nations, journalists for the “mainstream” media, and liberal politicians say about global warming….

The point is that believing in global warming is not “mainstream,” smart, or sophisticated. In fact, it is just the opposite of those things. Still believing in man-made global warming – after all the scientific discoveries and revelations that point against this theory – is more than a little nutty. In fact, some really crazy people use it to justify immoral and frightening behavior.

. . .

Oh, but Heartland wants you to know that not every single climate scientist — nor every member of the over 120 governments who sign off on the IPCC assessment reports nor every reporter who writes accurately — is like a psychopath:

Of course, not all global warming alarmists are murderers or tyrants.

Seriously. And yet they write:

The people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.

. . . UPDATE: Not that it matters to the disinformers at Heartland, but as E&E reports on the Unabomber’s manifesto (which you can confirm online):

The words “climate change” don’t appear in the manifesto, nor are there references to “global warming” or “carbon.”

Asked about this discrepancy, Heartland spokesman Jim Lakely pointed to a passage from Kaczynski’s manifesto that says the Industrial Revolution has “inflicted severe damage on the natural world.”

Heartland’s entire justification for taking anti-science, anti-scientist hate speech to a new level — and plastering it over the Dwight D Eisenhower Expressway in Illinois — are the “Climategate” stolen emails and the incident in which Peter Gleick admitted using deception to obtain Heartland documents (which Gleick subsequently acknowledged was “a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics”).

Yet, several climate scientists who “had their emails stolen [in 2009], posted online and grossly misrepresented,” slammed Heartland for “spreading misinformation” and “personally attacking climate scientists to further its goals.” The scientists specifically noted:

In 2009, the Heartland Institute was among the groups that spread false allegations about what these stolen emails said. Despite multiple independent investigations, which demonstrated that allegations against scientists were false, the Heartland Institute continued to attack scientists based on the stolen emails. When more stolen emails were posted online in 2011, the Heartland Institute again pointed to their release and spread false claims about scientists.

. . . UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan comments on the billboard at The Daily Beast:

In some ways, this is an almost perfect illustration of what has happened to the “right.” A refusal to acknowledge scientific reality; and a brutalist style of public propaganda that focuses entirely on guilt by the most extreme association….

Mann and Ornstein are correct. Large sections of the American right are now close to insane as well as depraved. And there is no Buckley to rein them in. Just countless Jonah Goldbergs seeking to cash in.

If the Heartland Institute is now a fringe group then there opinions are less important,but if they are a front group for powerful interests then it is a different story. Allowing that you may disagree, at its core the issue is one of morality and what shapes morality. Unless some people are characterized as evil, I think it is more constructive to understand how people get embedded in social systems which identify means and ends and their justifications. Organizations are both ideological and cultural. Of course, to label anybody as evil, or otherwise dehumanize them, is to sanction violence.

That said, I don’t believe this is the behavior a conscientious democratic citizen would adopt. Expediency is the belief in personal means rather than social ends. The quality of Steve Colls book on Mobil Exxon, according at least to his reviewers, is that he seeks to understand the behavior before judging it.

Postscript:

In the heartland they still believe in square roots. Or do they?

 
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