Bye, Bye, Mr. Exxon Guy

Bye, Bye, Mr. Exxon Guy
Screenshot: Greenpeace

Remember the Exxon lobbyist who got caught on tape admitting that the company had poured money into “shadow groups” in order to fight against climate science? He’s officially out of a job. E&E News confirmed with Exxon on Tuesday that Keith McCoy, the lobbyist in question, was no longer at the company.

“Mr. McCoy no longer works for the company,” Exxon spokesperson Casey Norton said in an email to E&E News. “This is a private personnel matter, and we will decline to comment further.”

For those who need a refresher, investigators at Unearthed posed as recruitment consultants looking to hire a DC lobbyist for a major client and set up interviews with two then-Exxon employees (the other interviewee left the company before the exposé aired). The secret tapes were released in July, and McCoy’s interview was far and away the more explosive of the two.

In addition to talking about the company’s history of perpetuating climate denial, McCoy also openly admitted that Exxon sees a carbon tax, which it has vocally supported, as nothing more than an “advocacy tool” He talked up all the politicians he’s regularly in touch with. His metaphor for capturing them — “you have bait, you fill that bait out and they say, ‘oh you want to talk about infrastructure,’ and then you start to reel them in” — is a pretty stunning admission of how things work. In a separate video released a day after the first, McCoy laid out in detail how Exxon is working behind-the-scenes to fight plastics regulation. McCoy later apologised on LinkedIn, the number one social network for Oil Guys Who Love To Post. But apparently it wasn’t enough to save his job.

Exxon wouldn’t tell E&E News when exactly McCoy left, and his LinkedIn still lists him as employed at Exxon. McCoy still seems to have a role at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, but, per web archives recovered by E&E News, sometime between August 14 and September 8, the website changed his affiliation from “ExxonMobil Corporation” to “Community Advocate.”

While it wouldn’t be my personal choice to work for a company that has done more than most to advance our planet’s quickly approaching heat death, I have to admit that I feel a little bad for McCoy. His comments lifted the veil on Exxon, but they confirmed what’s been clear Exxon and other Big Oil boys have been trying to do for a while. Namely, do everything they can to delay meaningful climate regulations, hyping the small parts of their business that are relatively clean, and investing in PR spin while making a killing digging up oil. McCoy just said the quiet part out loud in a fake job interview.

Exxon made quick work of distancing itself from McCoy following the debacle. After the interview aired, the company claimed in a statement from CEO Darren Woods that McCoy’s comments “in no way represent the company’s position on a variety of issues” and that McCoy was “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,” Woods’s statement continued. “We were shocked by these interviews and stand by our commitments to working on finding solutions to climate change.” OK, Darren. We get it.

After McCoy’s interview aired, the House Oversight and Reform Committee asked him to testify about his comments as part of their larger investigation into oil companies — which makes sense, given that McCoy basically openly bragged about how the company manipulates politicians into doing what they want. Exxon declined to comment to E&E whether or not McCoy would be covered by legal representation if he’s called to testify. (The House committee hasn’t confirmed whether or not McCoy accepted their invitation to testify.)

No matter! Dirty oil executives always seem to find a way to land on their feet after a scandal. Maybe there’s a future career for McCoy in utilities or something.