If President-elect Donald Trump nominates ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State, Democrats and progressives see a glimmer of a silver lining. Tillerson's Senate confirmation hearing would give environmentalists the chance to finally see Tillerson testify under oath about ExxonMobil's climate fraud.
Tillerson, who was paid $33 million in 2014, has led Exxon as it engages in an aggressive campaign to attack journalists and activists who have tried to highlight the company's misinformation campaign surrounding climate change—and he's also been in charge while the company continues to fund climate change deniers.
"Everything is on the table when it comes to [Tillerson] testifying under oath," a Senate Democratic aide told Politico. The aide said that Tillerson would "absolutely get those questions. The fact that they're not cognizant of that being an issue [...] shows a kind of tone deafness to what they're facing here."
Progressives also see a chance to galvanize the public about Tillerson's and Exxon's record. "[Trump] is handing us campaign opportunities," Jamie Henn, 350.org co-founder, told Politico.
Despite Democratic opposition, without a majority in the Senate Tillerson's appointment would likely be approved—and the empowered oil baron would pose a stark danger to the climate. As 350.org executive director May Boeve argued in a statement:
Covering up climate science and deceiving investors qualifies you for federal investigation, not federal office. An oil baron as Secretary of State would do enormous damage. Tillerson could deeply disrupt international efforts towards climate action, take retribution against countries that defy the oil industry, and help write more international trade deals that put profit ahead of people and planet.
The dangers of a Tillerson appointment are stark, Beove said: "Rex Tillerson made millions off of Exxon's strategy of denial and doubt, and would have every incentive to continue the deception while Secretary of State."