As early as the 1970s, fossil fuel companies knew that their products—oil, natural gas, and coal—cause global warming. In response, they chose to deceive the public about the facts.
Over the years, fossil fuel companies have poured their resources into lobbying politicians, attacking scientists, funding biased studies, and producing deceptive ad campaigns. All to convince us that only fossil fuels can support our way of life, that oil is clean, and that it’s us and our lifestyles, not them and the harmful policy they push, who are responsible for climate change.
We asked UCS scientists Dr. Astrid Caldas and Dr. Gretchen Goldman to react to recent big oil advertisements
Here’s their reaction:
ExxonMobil's Energy Lives Here
Who is ExxonMobil? ExxonMobil is one of the largest producers of oil and gas. They also have the distinction of being one of the major players in efforts to fund and implement campaigns to deceive the public about climate change.
Let’s break down some of the claims in Exxon’s Energy Lives Here advertisement
“If we could see energy, what would we see?” ExxonMobil asks.
Great question! If the energy comes from fossil fuels—oil, coal, and natural gas—we would see air pollution harming our health, extreme heat, drought, sea-level rise, and other climate impacts caused by carbon pollution, and we would see the disproportionate impacts on communities of color, low-income communities, and tribal communities.
Let’s talk jobs.
The ad heralds jobs in the fossil fuel industry, when in fact more than 500,000 people work in solar, wind, hydro, bioenergy, and geothermal energy. The energy efficiency sector alone employs more than two million people—double the number of people directly employed in the oil, coal, and gas industries in 2016, according to the Department of Energy.
“Using energy responsibly has never been more important,” ExxonMobil states with earnest concern.
We couldn’t agree more. Yet ExxonMobil borrows tactics from the playbook of the tobacco industry—hardly a model of corporate responsibility. ExxonMobil’s own scientists warned about the risks of burning oil and gas in the late 1970s. Management chose to ignore those warnings and continued pursuing fossil fuel extraction unabated, while spreading climate science disinformation and downplaying the risks of fossil fuels. To this day, they still mislead the public about the harm of their product.
Chevron's Protecting El Segundo Blue Butterfly
Chevron can try to take credit for protecting local butterflies, but they conveniently fail to mention all they do to put those same butterflies in danger.
So, we thought we'd shed some light on the issue:
Chevron didn’t act to protect the endangered butterfly, the El Segundo Blue, just to be nice. The Endangered Species Act is a federal law that requires the use of the best available science to determine if a species is at risk, determine its critical habitat, and develop a recovery plan. Chevron is legally required to protect the butterfly’s habitat—and they are hardly a model for environmental stewardship.
From 1981-1989 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified nearly 900 violations of pollution laws at Chevron’s El Segundo Refinery. In 1993 Chevron was fined $500,000 and charged with misdemeanor criminal violations of California law in connection with a 1991 oil spill at the El Segundo refinery.
If we zoom out to consider the ‘bigger picture’ as Chevron suggests in its ad, we see that climate change—caused primary by burning oil, gas, and coal—is endangering species and habitats across the world. Butterflies like the El Segundo Blue are particularly vulnerable to a warming climate, which can alter or destroy their habitat and food sources.
Not only has Chevron’s local action been destructive, they have also financed climate deception campaigns for decades to confuse us about their role in global climate change.
If Chevron wants to consider the “bigger picture,” they should address pollution, climate change, and habitat loss that threaten the very existence of the precious El Segundo Blue – and the health and wellbeing of all of us.
American Petroleum Institute's (API) Power Past Impossible
Who is API? The American Petroleum Institute (API) is the primary trade association of the oil and natural gas industry, whose membership includes the major fossil fuel companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and many others.
API is well known for their 1998 memo outlining the fossil fuel industry’s plan to confuse and mislead the public about climate science.
We think API could use some help correcting their buzz words in their Power Past Impossible advertisement:
“This ain’t your daddy’s oil.” This one works! Today’s oil is dirtier, harder to find, and more carbon intensive.
“Oil gushes art into the ocean and our communities.” From the infamous Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 to the deadly 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, we are reminded of the risks of drilling and transporting oil all too often.
“Oil strikes a pose marginalized communities the hardest.” Communities of color, low-income communities, and tribal communities are disproportionately affected by climate change and environmental contamination.
“Oil pumps life harmful pollution into the air.” The health risks of the air pollution from the burning of oil, coal, and natural gas include respiratory ailments like asthma and bronchitis and increased risk of life-threatening conditions like cancer.
“Oil [industry] explores space ways to mislead the public about the harm of their product.” The oil industry’s well documented decades long campaign to knowingly deceive the public continues today through ads such as this one falsely claiming that oil is clean and necessary.
We can’t afford deception any longer. Global warming is here, and we must act now to avoid catastrophic consequences. We simply cannot afford to continue producing dirty energy at the rate we do now – and that requires the fossil fuel industry to stop selling deception and stop blocking sensible climate policies. Share these videos with your friends and networks.