Had it not been for the coronavirus pandemic, Exxon Mobil Corp. might have by now increased, rather than decreased, annual carbon-dioxide emissions, eventually by as much as the output of the entire nation of Greece. That’s according to Bloomberg, based on a review of internal Exxon documents. The company had plans to spend billions more in fossil fuel production at a time when the planet needs just the opposite — a massive push to carbon-neutrality. Keep in mind: Exxon is already doing everything it can to accelerate global warming, as the report in Bloomberg Green put it: “The largest U.S. oil producer has never made a commitment to lower oil and gas output or set a date by which it will become carbon neutral.” Like Big Tobacco, Exxon knew the damage it was causing years ago, but kept its complicity in climate change a secret. It has lobbied Congress hard to block efforts to arrest greenhouse-gas emissions.
This is why I stay away from Exxon Mobil gas stations.
If you’re going to buy gasoline — and we all are, until we get to electric cars or see mass transit expanded — buy it from Exxon’s rivals: BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc, for instance, are already moving to curb oil and zero-out emissions.
Exxon’s plans for expansion have been stalled by the pandemic. But, under normal circumstances, and with the abnormal Trump administration lending a big hand, the oil giant would have been working overtime against efforts to slow climate change. Such a company deserves to be rejected by consumers.
And Trump needs to be rejected hard by voters. The administration not only walked away from the Paris agreement, it has reversed Obama orders intended to promote clean energy. Trump opened more lands and coastal areas for oil drilling. He loosened regulations on oil, natural gas and coal companies. Trump is a menace to the planet.
If he’s elected, Joe Biden says, the U.S. will rejoin the Paris climate accord and a Biden administration will start fixing the damage the Trump administration has inflicted on the Environmental Protection Agency.
We spend so much time fixated on Trump — the swirl of attention-grabbing news he creates everyday, and even more so these last few days, since his COVID-19 diagnosis — we can lose sight of what’s really important, even with the wildfires in the American West literally lighting up the skies. When it comes to climate change, the Trump presidency has been a waste of time. In fact, the Trump presidency turned the clock back on the nation’s efforts.
Biden has an ambitious plan, and anyone who cares that their children or grandchildren have a livable planet needs to vote for him. In the New Yorker, Pulitzer-winner Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction (and a guest on my Midday show in 2014), lays out what needs to be done as we recover from four years of Trump: “Spending should be aimed at five broad goals: decarbonizing the power sector, expanding the nation’s public-transportation systems, accelerating the transition to electric vehicles, improving building efficiency, and reducing emissions from manufacturing.”
One of the biggest challenges: Reducing carbon emissions in the production of electricity at a time when we need to be moving to electric-powered vehicles.
All of this — moving to clean energy, technological innovation, rebuilding infrastructure — should be seen as a way to create a new economy with better jobs for the future. The country must find a way to afford a multifront effort to curtail climate change. The alternative — what Exxon has in mind — will be more costly and, by all forecasts, disastrous.