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ExxonMobil CEO

ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods delivers a speech during an economic forum in Saint Petersburg, Russia on June 2, 2017. (Photo: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

'This Isn't an Apology, It's a Cover-Up': ExxonMobil CEO Slammed for New Statement on Exposé

Darren Woods claims company lobbyists' comments on "a variety of issues, including climate change policy, and our interaction with elected officials," were "disturbing and inaccurate."

Jessica Corbett

Environmentalists and reporters continued to call out ExxonMobil on Friday after chairman and chief executive officer Darren Woods followed up his earlier remarks about this week's exposé with a detailed statement about the fossil fuel giant's public position on climate policy and carbon pricing.

Woods' new statement is in response to secretly recorded footage released Wednesday by Unearthed, Greenpeace U.K.'s investigative journalism arm, that shows one current and one former ExxonMobil employee—Keith McCoy and Dan Easley, who thought they were speaking with a recruitment consultant—discussing lobbying related to infrastructure legislation, involvement with "shadow groups" that cast down on scientific consensus about the climate emergency, and "wins" during the Trump administration.

The videos sparked renewed calls for efforts to hold ExxonMobil accountable for helping fuel the climate emergency and increased pressure on President Joe Biden and Congress to end subsidies for polluters. They also elicited comments from Woods that critics called "disingenuous" and "greenwashing."

"The past few days have been disappointing for everyone at ExxonMobil and for me personally," Woods began. "A current and former member of our government affairs team were secretly recorded making disturbing and inaccurate comments about our positions on a variety of issues, including climate change policy, and our interaction with elected officials."

"Their comments are entirely inconsistent with our commitment to the environment, transparency, and what our employees and management team have worked toward since I became CEO four years ago," he continued. "I want to make our position clear."

Woods' key claims, which he addressed in further detail, were:

  • We understand the tremendous challenge represented by climate change and have fully supported the Paris agreement since its inception;
  • We believe a price on carbon emissions is essential to achieving net zero emissions; and
  • We are actively working to reduce our own emissions.

"We have great respect for policymakers, elected officials, and organizations across the political spectrum who are grappling to effectively address climate change, one of the greatest challenges of our time," he concluded. "ExxonMobil's position is clear: We want to be part of the solution while responsibly providing affordable energy required to power the economy. We have the experience, capabilities, capacity, and commitment to help meet this critical need."

In response to Woods' latest comments, Tara Connolly of Global Witness tweeted, "You won't read anything more disingenuous this year."

Truthout's Candice Bernd also summed up his lengthy statement in a tweet: "Exxon doubles down on positions its lobbyists confirmed are total artifice and subterfuge."

Fossil Free Media director Jamie Henn declared that "this isn't an apology, it's a cover-up."

"Exxon is in full damage control mode, but I don't think they can cover this one up. The leaked tape wasn't from a random intern, but from their senior director of legislative affairs," Henn told Common Dreams, referring to McCoy. "The idea that he wasn't representing the company's real positions is ludicrous."

"It's worth thinking about why this is so damaging for Exxon," he said. "After all, they deal with criticism over their lobbying, oil spills, and pollution all the time, but rarely issue statements, let alone entire blog posts, from their CEO. I think they're especially freaked out about the leaked tape because it cuts at the core of their entire political strategy: avoiding regulation by pretending to support climate solutions."

Henn added that "the argument that they deserve a seat at the table because 'they support a carbon tax' has been blown to smithereens. The video confirms what we've argued all along: Exxon is trying to burn the table, and the entire planet, down to the ground."

Investigative reporter Niall Sargent called the CEO's statement "the sign of a very, very successful investigation," praising Unearthed and the journalist behind the report, Lawrence Carter. "So rare to get these revelations in real time as legislation is passing through the halls of power," Sargent added.

Carter, in his initial article, promised the outlet would reveal more about ExxonMobil in the coming days. On Friday, he published a second piece about the company and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as "forever chemicals."

ExxonMobil isn't the only entity under fire in response to Carter's reporting; the American Petroleum Institute (API) is facing fresh criticism over McCoy's claim about using trade groups as "whipping boys" to avoid public scrutiny.

"Exxon's lobbyist said the quiet part out loud, but the oil company's rampant hypocrisy on climate action has long been obvious," said Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US, in a statement Friday.

"Oil and gas companies like Exxon publicly claim they want to work with the Biden administration to take real steps on climate action," he said. "In reality, they're hiding behind the American Petroleum Institute and its unreliable climate commitments—polluting and advocating against the very same policy changes they want their shareholders and customers to believe they support."

According to Herrig, "These companies have a choice: fess up to their hypocrisy or cut off their connections—and revenue streams—to API."

This post has been updated to include Lawrence Carter's reporting on ExxonMobil and PFAS.

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