On Wednesday, the UK’s Channel 4 aired explosive videos gathered by Greenpeace that showed Exxon lobbyists detailing how the company fights against climate action in Washington, DC, including the fact that they have joined groups pushing climate denial and lobbied against Joe Biden’s once-climate-focused infrastructure plan. Now, the company is trying to clean up the mess.
Keith McCoy, a senior director of federal relations at Exxon, took most of the heat in the segment for his comments on, among other things, how the company’s carbon tax endorsement is a “great talking point” because it’ll never actually come to pass. He took to — where else? — LinkedIn on Wednesday to issue an apology. (The site is a favourite for Big Oil Men who simply love to post.)
“I am deeply embarrassed by my comments and that I allowed myself to fall for Greenpeace’s deception,” his post reads. “My statements clearly do not represent ExxonMobil’s positions on important public policy issues. While some of my comments were taken out of context, there is no excuse for what I said or how I said it. I apologise to all my colleagues at the company and my friends in Washington, D.C., all of whom have a right to expect better of me.”
Like most places on the internet, the LinkedIn comment section is a pretty tough crowd. McCoy was roasted for the “PR lip service” apologies while other users advocated for Exxon’s managed decline. McCoy does have some support, though. One of the people who “liked” the post is George David Banks, a former senior adviser to President George W. Bush on climate change and who served a brief tenure as a special assistant to former President Donald Trump for international energy and environment, where he treated us to a baffling defence of Trump’s infamous “global warming is a Chinese hoax” tweet. Banks stepped down after he was told he wouldn’t receive full security clearance because he’d smoked too much weed in the past (relatable, tbh).
The thing is, I almost feel bad for McCoy, who’s been drinking the Exxon Kool-Aid for seven years now. Most of what he actually told the Greenpeace interviewers — that Exxon supported “shadow groups” suppressing climate science, actively lobbies Democratic politicians, and only supports climate policies as window dressing — has been reported on by journalists and sussed out by reporters and other experts for years. It wasn’t necessarily shocking that he was saying it, but it was shocking that someone from the company finally said the quiet part out loud.
It’s in part why shareholders revolted in May, voting to install three activist board members who want the company to tighten up its climate goals. That vote was led by the investment group Engine No. 1, which declined to comment on the most recent kerfluffle.
Exxon, meanwhile is rushing to throw McCoy and Dan Easley, the other person recorded by Greenpeace who had already left the company, under the bus. On Twitter on Wednesday, Exxon posted a statement from CEO Darren Woods.
“Comments made by the individuals in no way represent the company’s position on a variety of issues, including climate policy and our firm commitment that carbon pricing is important to addressing climate change,” the multi-tweet thread reads. “The individuals interviewed were never involved in developing the company’s policy positions on the issues discussed. We condemn the statements and are deeply apologetic for them, including comments regarding interactions with elected officials. They are entirely inconsistent with the way we expect our people to conduct themselves. We were shocked by these interviews and stand by our commitments to working on finding solutions to climate change.”
It’s weird to say that McCoy wasn’t involved at all in forming policy positions. McCoy is, after all, not some low-level intern, but a senior director with years of experience on the Hill before he got to Exxon. It would be unusual for him to be totally left out of conversations around how to form strategy and policy. Woods’s statement also didn’t sit well with the producers of the Channel 4 special.
“This was not your response to our allegations in the right to reply,” Ben de Pear, the editor of Channel 4, tweeted in response, referencing the UK law “More to come tonight.”