“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether you believe in it or not.”
When Rex Tillerson speaks, this blog listens. Rex is pretty much an icon around here. He’s the namesake of the Rex Tillerson Fracking Hypocrite Award, and the CEO of ExxonMobil who complained about government interference in fracking while he was suing his neighbors to stop construction of a fracking-related water tower near his home.
Rex has been under increasing fire lately over climate change, and so it’s worth noting that Exxon has, after five years of severe pressure from stockholders and the public, agreed to disclose more about the risks associated with its use of hydraulic fracturing, including, for the first time, a plan to mitigate the effects of climate change.
The pressure has come from many sources, but it is a clear indication that people can make the oil and gas industry back down. The increasing pressure of moratoriums, economic boycotts, stockholder pressure and changes in public attitudes are having an impact in forcing change.
Exxon’s abysmal performance in disclosing the risks of fracking is summarized in the report Disclosing the Facts: Transparency and Risk in Hydraulic Fracturing Operations, put out by several investment groups. The report bench- marked 24 companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing against their disclosure of the operational impacts of fracking and their mitigation efforts.
As you can see from the scorecard at the right, none of the companies does a very good job of reporting risk — the best disclosure score was 14 out of 32 — but Exxon is particularly bad, with a disclosure score of only 2 out of 32.
What’s most remarkable about this is that Exxon has actually issued a report called Energy and Carbon — Managing the Risks. The report marked the first time Exxon has publicly acknowledged that climate change is real and that energy-related activities contribute to it. In Exxon’s words:
ExxonMobil takes the risk of climate change seriously, and continues to take meaningful steps to help address the risk and to ensure our facilities, operations and investments are managed with this risk in mind.
Many governments are also taking these risks seriously, and are considering steps they can take to address them. These steps may vary in timing and approach, but regardless, it is our belief they will be most effective if they are informed by global energy demand and supply realities, and balance the economic aspirations of consumers.
Exxon’s final report with recommendations for climate change mitigation is due out in September. We shouldn’t expect anything earthshaking, but it’s a small and important step. Until now the oil and gas industry has made it their business to deny everything that associates their activities with climate change.
Steve Daines doesn’t get it
I wish Steve Daines would get the message. He’s still clinging to the notion that he just doesn’t know whether human beings have anything to do with climate change. At right you see a letter he recently wrote to a constituent. You can click on it to read the whole letter, but the key passage reads,
While I believe we all have a moral responsibility to be good stewards of the environment, the current uncertainty surrounding climate change requires us to consider very carefully any legislation that would cost jobs and hurt families with only the promise of an extremely small impact on the reported problem. I graduated with an engineering degree from MSU. My education trained me to base decisions on sound math and science. I will not support policies that would harm America’s economy while having an insignificant or uncertain benefit to the environment.
Now this is not a political blog. I’m not going to endorse any candidate for Senate, and frankly, I don’t know whether John Walsh is any better. He hasn’t seen fit to tell us exactly where he stands on climate change. His web site indicates he’s for developing every energy resource known to man, from renewables to coal.
And once you’re in office, the money train from oil and gas makes it easy to hold on to climate change denial. Steve Daines has taken in $258,282 from the oil and gas industry since he’s been in Congress, including $140,812 in this year’s election cycle. Not to be cynical, but I’ll bet his engineering degree from MSU taught him more about how to count money than how to figure out that our dependence on fossil fuels is killing us.
Montana deserves better
The people of Montana deserve better than a Senator who cares more about his campaign war chest than the quality of life in this state and the entire world. The head-in-the-sand approach that says, well, we just don’t know, so it would be wrong to slow down is just stupid. Even if you really think we don’t know what’s causing climate change, wouldn’t it make sense to find out before we release more and more methane into the air?
Montana voters should pay attention to how pressure has forced Rex Tillerson to move. No matter who gets elected, voters need to demand a responsible approach to energy development from their next Senator. Full speed ahead just won’t do. If we can make Rex Tillerson get it, we ought to be able to reach the next Senator, whether it’s Steve Daines or John Walsh.