Friday, January 26, 2007

A Discussion with Ken Cohen, Exxon/Mobil

Today I participated in a conference call with Ken Cohen, Exxon's VP for Public Affairs.  Exxon is undertaking a concerted PR campaign to resuscitate its reputation as a reasoned voice in the climate change policy debate, reaching out to both the conventional media and to the blogosphere. 

Exxon has, of course, been scorned for its financial support of climate change skeptics long after consensus converged in the scientific community that dangerous global warming (1) is already occurring and (2) results in large part from greenhouse gases generated by fossil fuel use.  Until recently, Exxon funded Competitive Enterprise Institute -- perhaps most infamous for its "Carbon Dioxide...they call it pollution...we call it Life" television campaign   CEI Energy TV spot   CEI Glacier TV spot lists more than another 100 organizations funded by Exxon, many active in opposing GHG and other environmental regulation.  Funding list

Exxon has been spurned by green investment advisors and investors.  For example, CERES, which coordinates the Investor Network on Climate Risk with 50+ institutional investors with $ 3 trillion in assets, stated Exxon has a

"corporate plan and mindset unprepared to lead in a carbon-constrained world.  ExxonMobil's statements, plans, actions, and investments on climate change and clean energy lag behind competitors like BP and Royal Dutch Shell.  ExxonMobil's shareholders bear a substantial financial and competitive risk as a result of the company's lack of strategic focus on R&D and deployment of clean, renewable energy technologies...[it is] unmistakably clear that Exxon's fundamental business approach has not changed.  The company still firmly believes that oil is the future and that there is no reason to invest meaningfully in clean energy and alternative fuels." 

The Investor Responsibility Research Center evaluated companies with respect to proactive governance addressing climate change: Exxon scored 35 compared to 90 for BP and 79 for Shell.  Goldman Sachs' Energy Environmental and Social Index in 2005 ranked Exxon Mobil as the worst of the major oil companies on climate change -- running behind BP, Shell, and Chevron Texaco as well as behind BG, ENI, OMV, Repsol, and Amerada Hess.

Exxon wants to change public perception...and today's call was part of the plan.  So what did it say?  Stay tuned

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