by Steven D
Fri May 19th, 2006 at 10:23:09 AM EST
It seems not everyone agrees with Big Oil that global warming is over-hyped alarmist nonsense. Today's Houston Chronicle has this story about Exxon's institutional investors who are demanding a meeting with the Board of Directors over Exxon's failure to address the threat of global warming:
NEW YORK - A group of pension funds and institutional investors on Thursday accused Exxon Mobil Corp. of failing to act on global warming concerns and demanded a meeting with the company's board.
In response, Exxon Mobil said it has an ongoing dialogue with members of the group and is setting up a meeting in July to discuss these issues.
Why are these big time investors in such a tizzy when Exxon Mobil is making just obscene amounts of money? Follow me below the fold for the answer. . .
Exxon has agreed to a meeting with the shareholders, but, as currently planned, it will only be with Exxon staffers (whoever that might mean) and not with Exxon's board. The investor group is adamant that it meet with the board in its entirety and not be fobbed off on low level minions of Exxon's senior management:
"In part, our position includes the fact that we recognize that the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere poses risks that may prove significant for society and ecosystems," Exxon Mobil said in a prepared statement. "We believe that these risks justify actions now, but the selection of actions must consider the uncertainties that remain."
The group, composed of pension fund trustees and institutional investors, said they were concerned Exxon Mobil's handling of the climate change issue left it trailing behind its major oil peers, such as BP and Royal Dutch Shell.
Now why are Exxon's largest investors getting into a snit about the global warming issue? After all, these large pension and mutual funds don't put their money in Exxon's stock in order to effect social change or better mankind. They hold Exxon Mobil stock in order to get a share of Exxon's massive profits for their own investors and pensioners.
The answer can be guessed at when we consider these two words: Big Tobacco. Like the oil companies are doing today, Big Tobacco spent millions of dollars in a disinformation campaign to dissuade people from the clear scientific evidence that smoking was harmful to your health. The upshot of all that corporate fraud and deceit? Billions of dollars paid by Big Tobacco to settle lawsuits brought by smokers and numerous State Attorney Generals.
Is the picture getting clearer? Sure, Exxon's shareholders may be happy with record profits and dividends, but they have to be concerned about Exxon's record of lying about the threat global warming poses, especially since Exxon Mobil's products are the main source of the greenhouse emissions driving that warming trend. So, when these large institutional shareholders see stuff like this . . .
[T]he Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) will unveil two 60-second TV ads focusing on what it calls "global warming alarmism and the call by some environmental groups and politicians to reduce fossil fuel and carbon dioxide emissions." The ad, which will be aired in more than a dozen cities across the country, is being released just a week before the May 24th opening (in LA and NYC) of Al Gore's new movie on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth.
Who is CEI? The Washington Post explains:
The Competitive Enterprise Institute, which widely publicizes its belief that the earth is not warming cataclysmically because of the burning of coal and oil, says Exxon Mobil Corp. is a "major donor" largely as a result of its effort to push that position.
Exxon documents reveal the company gave $270,000 to CEI in 2004 alone. $180,000 of that was earmarked for "global climate change and global climate change outreach." Exxon has contributed over $1.6 million to CEI since 1998.
CEI's general counsel Sam Kazman said, "I think what attracted [Exxon] to us was our position on global warming." CEI's position? The Institute believes the dangers of global warming are akin "to that of `an alien invasion.'"
Exxon's spokesperson Tom Cirigliano has explained why the company is so dedicated to funding CEI's pushback on global warming:
We want to support organizations that are trying to broaden the debate. ... There is this whole issue that no one should question the science of global climate change that is ludicrous. That's the kind of dark-ages thinking that gets you in a lot of trouble.
For the oil industry, Al Gore's film exposing the truth is perceived as a threat, and they have no shortage of funds to try to distort it.
. . . it doesn't take much for them to put 2 + 2 together and conclude that massive lawsuits (How many dollars in future losses? Billions? Trillions?) are in Exxon Mobil's future unless it starts doing something immediately to
cover Lee Johnson's massive jowls inoculate itself against such claims. Exxon's continuing efforts to muddy the waters of the global warming debate are seen by these investors as a dangerous sign that the value of their Exxon shares in the future will plummet unless management adopts a different strategy regarding climate change, and the sooner the better.
My prediction? The investors won't get their meeting with the board, not will Exxon back off its campaign to mislead the world about the danger global warming poses. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see a bill presented to Congress (by Republicans, naturally) at some future date proposing to absolve the oil companies from all legal liability arising from greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of global warming. After all, that's the approach Big Tobacco has taken, time and time again.
But then I'm a pessimist. Let's hope my crystal ball gazing proves to be a bit clouded, and that these investors force Exxon to change its approach on the environment before it's too late -- for all of us.
Front paged at Booman Tribune. Cross-posted at My Left Wing and Daily Kos.