Thanks to an investigative report by journalism students at the Columbia University, ExxonMobile Corporation has been subpoenaed in New York, accused of lying to the public about climate change and funding climate-denying organizations. But now Exxon is striking back.
In a letter to Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, Exxon blasts the students, accusing them of deliberately misleading and manipulating information and makes a thinly veiled threat to the University itself. In an interview with Democracy Now, 350.org founder Bill McKibbin comments, “Their letter to Columbia can only be described as thuggish. It carried every kind of implication about how they would do one thing or another to them if they did not get satisfaction.”
The letter, written by Exxon’s VP for Public and Government Affairs Kenneth Cohen and obtained by Politico, states “ExxonMobil has had numerous and productive relationships with Columbia University for many years, whether through research programs, interactions with the business school or recruiting of graduates for employment with our company. The interactions detailed above are not typical of the high standards and ethical behavior we have come to expect from your institution.”
Much like the findings of what the tobacco industry knew years before revealing anything to the public, Exxon’s climate change research began decades ago. The fact that they chose not to pursue research and movement towards cleaner energy leaves many outraged and many asking questions. David Turnbull, campaign director for Oil Change International spoke with Common Dreams stating, “We’ve often wondered if Exxon actually hates our children because they so consistently stand in the way of safeguarding their future; it turns out they apparently hate good journalism as well.”
Although Exxon denies the accusations, the damage may have already been done. In addition to Twitter trends like #ExxonKnew and attention from mainstream and non-mainstream news sources around the world, both front-running candidates for the Democratic primaries, Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, have spoken out in favor of inquiries into what the corporate giant knew.
With climate change a key issue in the upcoming elections and in the news surrounding the COP21 Climate Conference in Paris, it’s the perfect time to start looking at these energy powerhouses and questioning how much of our society we want invested in them. According to Politico, Exxon gave well over $200,000 to Columbia University last year. Perhaps they could do without it.