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By Joanne NovaThe Exxon “Blame-Game” is a Distracting Side Show
Much media attention has relentlessly focused on the influence of “Big Oil”—but the numbers don’t add up. Exxon Mobil is still vilified for giving around 23 million dollars, spread over roughly ten years, to skeptics of the enhanced greenhouse effect. It amounts to about $2 million a year, compared to the US government input of well over $2 billion a year. The entire total funds supplied from Exxon amounts to less than one five-thousandth of the value of carbon trading in just the single year of 2008.
Apparently Exxon was heavily “distorting the debate” with a mere 0.8% of what the US government spent on the climate industry each year at the time. (If so, it’s just another devastating admission of how effective government funding really is.)
As an example for comparison, nearly three times the amount Exxon has put in was awarded to the Big Sky sequestration project to store just 0.1% of the annual carbon-dioxide output of the United States of America in a hole in the ground. The Australian government matched five years of Exxon funding with just one feel-good advertising campaign, “Think Climate. Think Change.” (but don’t think about the details).
Perhaps if Exxon had balanced up its input both for and against climate change, it would have been spared the merciless attacks? It seems not, since it has donated more than four times as much to the Stanford-based Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP).5, 6 Exxon’s grievous crime is apparently just to help give skeptics a voice of any sort. The censorship must remain complete.
The vitriol against Exxon reached fever pitch in 2005-2008. Environmental groups urged a boycott of Exxon for its views on Global Warming. It was labeled An Enemy of the Planet. James Hansen called for CEOs of fossil energy companies to be “tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.” In the next breath he mentioned Exxon.
Even The Royal Society, which ought to stand up for scientists and also for impeccable standards of logic, joined the chorus to implore Exxon to censor its speech. The unprecedented letter from the 350-year-old institution listed multiple appeals to authority, but no empirical evidence to back its claim that a link with carbon and temperature was beyond doubt and discussion. The Royal Society claims that it supports scientists, but while it relies on the fallacious argument from authority how will it ever support whistle-blowers who by definition question “authority?”
While Exxon has been attacked repeatedly for putting this insignificant amount of money forward, few have added up the vested interests that are pro-AGW. Where are the investigative journalists? Money that comes from tax-payers is somehow devoid of corrupting incentives; while any money from Big Oil in a free market for ideas, is automatically a “crime”. The irony is that taxpayers’ money is forcibly removed at the point of a gun, but Exxon has to earn its money through thousands of voluntary transactions.
Those who attack Exxon over just $2 million a year are inadvertently drawing attention away from the real power play and acting as unpaid PR agents for giant trading houses and large banks, which could sit a little uncomfortably with greenies and environmentalists. After all, on other days, some of these same groups throw rocks at big bankers.
The side show of blaming Big Oil hides the truth: that the real issue is whether there is any evidence, and that the skeptics are a grassroots movement that consists of well respected scientists and a growing group of unpaid volunteers.