Friday, July 24, 2015

Fraud via proxy still seems fraudy.



A puzzled Stoat asks what's the big deal and what's new about revelations that Exxon picked up on climate change issues back in 1981 while funding climate deniers for many years after.

I'll note by response that first those are two separate questions - even if you think it's not particularly news, that doesn't eliminate the problem for Exxon

The real issue as I see it is if Exxon has been trying to spread messages it knows aren't true - that's called fraud, and that's what got the tobacco companies in trouble. Paying someone to commit your fraud for you is no magic shield from liability.

There's this quote at Stoat (but not by Stoat):
Exxon NEVER denied the potential for humans to impact the climate system. It did question ‐ legitimately, in my opinion ‐ the validity of some of the science…
Well, I'm not sure that's an accurate statement, but again it doesn't matter too much if you're using someone else to do your denial for you.

Proving to a judge and jury that's what Exxon did isn't necessarily simple though. It's not Exxon speaking directly, so you'd have to show that Exxon is promoting that speech. Funding climate-denying politicians could just be because Exxon likes their bold stances in favor of motherhood and apple pie. Climate-denying non-profits that exist to do little else could be more problematic. Being able to subpoena documents could really clear this stuff up in terms of nailing down what the motivation was.

Via the Ubiquitous John Mashey, I see Scripps did a forum on the tobacco/climate connection from a few years back. I'm going to have to look at it in depth, but there's this:
A key breakthrough in the public and legal case for tobacco control came when internal documents came to light showing the tobacco industry had knowingly misled the public. Similar documents may well exist in the vaults of the fossil fuel industry and their trade associations and front groups, and there are many possible approaches to unearthing them.
We might have the first stage of this internal documentation with the latest info on what Exxon knew in 1981. Maybe we'll find out more.

22 comments:

afeman said...

The Ubiquitous JM! Somebody print t-shirts!

Tom said...

Ah, yes. Exxon donated money to politicians sitting on Finance committees, Energy committees, etc., etc. Those politicians were Republicans. Some of them are on the other side of the debate from the Guardian, Greenpeace, etc., and those perfectly honest and unbiased organizations classify these donations as funding climate denial.

Similarly, Exxon donated money to thinktanks that try to influence policy on a raft of issues that are relevant to Exxon. One of those issues is climate change.

If someone is already spreading messages that you don't like and Exxon funds them, they are not paying them to spread messages. They would spread those messages regardless.

There are certain policies at Stanford University that I disagree with. I therefore demand that Exxon claw back the $100 million they donated to Stanford to research climate change.

It's fraud, I tell you! Fraud!

Fernando Leanme said...

I agree with Tom. This post seremos to be the result of some sort of obsessive feedback mechanism. "Exxon is bad, therefore Exxon is bad, which makes Exxon really bad, and anything Exxon does must be bad". Those guys are mostly into backing pro Exxon causes. Climate change isn't really that important to a large oil company. Taxation, offshore drilling regulations, and issues like that are much more critical.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

Figures our resident deniers would defend Exxon for helping set up the anti-climate-science lie machine.

Of COURSE Exxon has an interest, based on their financial well-being, in lying about climate change. That doesn't mean they have a right to do it.

Daniel B Fox said...

These documents do or at least did exist. I would suggest looking very closely at SEPP and Singer.

Russell Seitz said...

Exxon is bad, so very very bad , that the man, the very fat man, who waters the worker's beer , somehow talked the Obama administration into apponting its Chief Scientist as the Chief Scientist of The Department of Energy.


Sometimes it is good to be a Republican.

Kevin O'Neill said...

Russell: Koonin was the chief scientists at BP, not Exxon. Or perhaps you're referring to someone else?

I'm not sure how this refutes the point being made. It in fact reinforces it. Industry typically knows the science very, very well. Yet they spend untold millions (billions) in direct advertising or funding of secondary outlets to spread FUD around the science. This doesn't make their scientists inept, though in some cases it certainly throws doubt on their ethics.

Tom said...

Maybe it isn't industry spreading FUD. Maybe it's John Cook using a nom de guerre.

...and who is behind the mysterious deaths of British ice experts? Inquiring minds want to know...

BPL, thank you for nominating Fernando and me for the position of denier. If we qualify, we will join Barack Obama and Andrew Revkin. Quite an honor.

EliRabett said...

Tom, everybunny is entitled to their own delusions, yours are just. . . richer than most.

Russell Seitz said...

Sorry for the Seven Sisters merger fatigue .

Brian said...

Tom - rely on denialists for info on John Cook, and you'll regret it. I know what you're talking about, and it's pure bull. Try reading people who are honest.

Bernard J. said...

"Maybe it's John Cook using a nom de guerre."

Attempting to poison a well, Tom? That's a particularly grubby logical fallacy in which to engage, but I'm sure that you didn't mean to...

Tom said...

Lubos to you, BJ. And Brian, too!

Hank Roberts said...

Is this the same curiously smiling 'Tom' guy who stalks Gavin on Twitter?

EliRabett said...


Tom here is most likely Tom Fuller. The Gavin stalker is Tom Nelson (TAN123). Oh well, there is hope in the world Fernando got off a good one in a recent thread.

Bernard J. said...

Tom, you've already been caught with your pants down. There's no point waving your old fella around to distract from the fact...

Tom said...

I am Tom Fuller--I have said so here in the past, though not recently. I am not the person who follows Gavin on Twitter. I believe that is Tom Nelson, a climate skeptic.

Ah, Bernard J, I can see by the frustrated tone of your comment that your arguments must failing somewhere in the blogosphere--again. In that you are at least successfully emulating Rabett, so I'm sure you can happily commiserate here.

Bernard J. said...

Not frustrated Tom, just amused. And still disgusted.

You're reading what you want between the lines. If you like I could pepper my posts with a trail of descriptors so that you don't have to strain your mind trying to imagine my intent.

[Sarcasm...]

Hank Roberts said...

Whoah. Can o' worms ...

Jeffrey Davis said...

Re: John Cook

Anyone who has ever coded anything has used funny names and famous names as test data. (Along with silly variable names or even obscene variable names. Don't ask about the time my boss was looking over my shoulder as I was tracing some code. )

Using that non-scandal simply outs yourself as a denialist of the shill variety.

crf said...

The Tobacco companies had done their own research which suggested tobacco caused cancer and other health issues. This was sound science. Internally, they decided to not inform the public or government about their own science, and lied. And when they were sued for health costs, this is the big reason for why they lost.

But oil companies do not do climate science research, or at least, not at the stringent and capable level at which they actually did their suppressed health research.

Oil companies paid big money to air opinions about climate science. Those opinions did not impartially inform the public (to put in mildly). But these were just opinions, and it is difficult to prove that they were knowingly lying by contradicting their own rigorous science, as was the case with tobacco.

EliRabett said...


Eli thinks you seriously underestimate the amount of research and evaluation done by the oil & gas industry on climate change. Coal not so much, if anything at all, because of the different cultures of the two.