Millions Of Fossil Fuel Dollars Are Being Pumped Into Anti-Climate Lobbying

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A newly published report shows that (combined) the five largest publicly owned oil and gas companies spend close to $200 million a year on lobbying to undermine climate change science research.

While outwardly professing to standby the goals laid out by the Paris Agreement and even endorsing various clean-energy initiatives, oil and gas giants are frantically working behind the scenes to "control, delay, or block climate-motivated policy", the report by InfluenceMap reveals.


Indeed, the report found that companies like ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, BP, and Total doled out more than $1 billion of shareholder funds to the cause in the three years after the Paris Agreement. The "most direct, negative and egregious climate lobbying", the report adds, is being outsourced to trade groups like the American Petroleum Institute, who have (among other things) successfully campaigned to rollback methane standards.

And yet, the campaigning is not just restricted to the lobby halls – fossil fuel giants have made huge investments into advertising designed to influence the decisions of voters. In the four week run-up to the US midterm elections in 2018, for example, $2 million was pumped into social media to buy targeted ads on Facebook and Instagram espousing the benefits of higher fossil fuel production and backing key climate-related ballot initiatives. The report names and shames ExxonMobil as "by far the most prolific spender", dropping $400,000 for more than 360 individual political ads, resulting in over 10 million impressions in states like Colorado, Texas, and Louisiana.

Elsewhere, BP spent $13 million on a campaign (also supported by Chevron) that successfully managed to block a carbon tax policy in Washington State. $1 million of that was allotted to social media ads alone.

"InfluenceMap’s research confirms a widely held suspicion that Big Oil’s glossy sustainability reports and shiny climate statements are all rhetoric and no action," Catherine Howarth, Chief Executive of ShareAction, said in a statement.


"These companies have mastered the art of corporate doublespeak – by boasting about their climate credentials while quietly using their lobbying firepower to sabotage the implementation of sensible climate policy and pouring millions into groups that engage in dirty lobbying on their behalf."

The report – based on accounts, lobbying registers, and communication documents since 2015 – tells us the five companies made a cool $55 billion in profits in 2018, as oil and gas production and proved reserves achieved record highs. That same year, greenhouse gas emissions were greater than ever.

Looking forward, analysts expect the companies to increase their spending to $115 billion over the next year, only 3 percent of which will go towards low carbon projects like Exxon's highly publicized biofuel initiative. Even if ExxonMobil achieves its given goal of 10,000 barrels of biofuel a day by 2025, that will amount to a feeble 0.2 percent of its current refinery capacity – "in other words, a rounding error relative [to] its global business," the report states.

While the fact the fossil fuel industry is playing for profits rather than the interest of the public may not appear all that surprising – particularly given their decades-long history of covering up climate change to push their product – this doesn’t make it any less concerning. As things stand, the report warns, these operations alone will release enough greenhouse gas emissions to push warming to the 1.5°C (2.7°F) upper limit recommended by the IPCC report to avoid the worst effects of climate change


Shell and Chevron told AFP they reject the report's findings.