Category Archives: Carbon dioxide

DESMOGBLOG: “There is no doubt”: Exxon Knew CO2 Pollution Was A Global Threat By Late 1970s

Repost from DeSmogBlog

“There is no doubt”: Exxon Knew CO2 Pollution Was A Global Threat By Late 1970s

By Brendan DeMelle and Kevin Grandia, April 26, 2016 09:19
Throughout Exxon’s global operations, the company knew that CO2 was a harmful pollutant in the atmosphere years earlier than previously reported.

DeSmog has uncovered Exxon corporate documents from the late 1970s stating unequivocally “there is no doubt” that CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels was a growing “problem” well understood within the company.

It is assumed that the major contributors of CO2 are the burning of fossil fuels… There is no doubt that increases in fossil fuel usage and decreases of forest cover are aggravating the potential problem of increased CO2 in the atmosphere. Technology exists to remove CO2 from stack gases but removal of only 50% of the CO2 would double the cost of power generation.” [emphasis added]

Those lines appeared in a 1980 report, “Review of Environmental Protection Activities for 1978-1979,” produced by Imperial Oil, Exxon’s Canadian subsidiary.

#exxonknew - it is assumed

#exxonknew | there is no doubt
[click on any of the screenshots in this story to see a PDF of the full document]

A distribution list included with the report indicates that it was disseminated to managers across Exxon’s international corporate offices, including in Europe.

#exxonknew | distirbution list
[click here to download the full PDF version of “Review of Environmental Protection Activities for 1978-1979”]

The next report in the series, “Review of Environmental Protection Activities for 1980-81,” noted in an appendix covering “Key Environmental Affairs Issues and Concerns” that: CO2 / GREENHOUSE EFFECT RECEIVING INCREASED MEDIA ATTENTION.


[click here to download the full PDF version of “Review of Environmental Protection Activities for 1980-1981”]

InsideClimate News unveiled much new information in its Exxon: The Road Not Taken series clearly demonstrating the depth of climate science knowledge among Exxon’s U.S. operations. Additional revelations about the company’s early climate research were published by the Los Angeles Times in collaboration with the Columbia School of Journalism.

A 1980 Exxon report explained the company’s plans:

CO2 Greenhouse Effect:  Exxon-supported work is already underway to help define the seriousness of this problem. Such information is needed to assess the implications for future fossil fuel use. Government funding will be sought to expand the use of Exxon tankers in determining the capacity of the ocean to store CO2.”

Now DeSmog’s research confirms that the knowledge of the carbon dioxide pollution threat was indeed global across Exxon’s worldwide operations, earlier than previously known, and considered a major challenge for the company’s future operations. The new documents revealed today were found by DeSmog researchers in an Imperial Oil (TSE:IMOarchival collection housed at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta. We first learned of the existence of the collection in one of the articles published in the Los Angeles Times in collaboration with the Columbia School of Journalism.

“Since Pollution Means Disaster…”

A document discovered by DeSmog reveals that Exxon was aware as early as the late 1960s that global emissions of CO2 from combustion was a chief pollution concern affecting global ecology.

Those details were found in a 1970 report, “Pollution Is Everybody’s Business,” authored by H.R. Holland, a Chemical Engineer responsible for environmental protection in Imperial Oil’s engineering division. [click to download PDF of “Pollution is Everybody’s Business]

Holland wrote:

Since pollution means disaster to the affected species, the only satisfactory course of action is to prevent it – to maintain the addition of foreign matter at such levels that it can be diluted, assimilated or destroyed by natural processes – to protect man’s environment from man.”

Included in Holland’s report is a table of the “Estimated Global Emissions of Some Air Pollutants.” One of those “air pollutants” on the table is carbon dioxide with the listed sources as “oxidation of plant and animal matter” and “combustion.”

#ExxonKnew - Imperial Oil
The double asterisks beside CO2 in Holland’s list of pollutants refer to a citation for a 1969 scientific study, “Carbon Dioxide Affects Global Ecology,” in which the author explains the connections between the burning of fossil fuels, the rise in CO2 in the atmosphere and the potential effects this will have on future weather patterns and global temperatures.

Holland emphasized the need to control all forms of pollution through regulatory action, noting that “a problem of such size, complexity and importance cannot be dealt with on a voluntary basis.” Yet the fossil fuel industry has long argued that its voluntary programs are sufficient, and that regulations are unneeded.

Exxon Understood Climate Science, Yet Funded Decades of Climate Science Denial

Despite Exxon’s advanced scientific understanding of the role of CO2 pollution from fossil fuel burning causing atmospheric disruption, the company shelved its internal concerns and launched a sophisticated, global campaign to sow doubt and create public distrust of climate science. This included extensive lobbying and advertising activities, publishing weekly op-eds in The New York Times for years, and other tactics.

Exxon and Mobil were both founding members of the Global Climate Coalition, an industry front group created in 1989 to sow doubt — despite the GCC‘s internal understanding of the certainty.

While the GCC distributed a “backgrounder” to politicians and media in the early 1990s claiming “The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood,” a 1995 GCC internal memo drafted by Mobil Oil(which merged with Exxon in 1998) stated that: “The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied.”

And the most obvious evidence of Exxon’s pervasive efforts to attack science and pollution control regulations lies in the more than $30 million traced by Greenpeace researchers to several dozen think tanks and front groups working to confuse the public about the need to curb CO2 pollution.

FROM THE DESMOG RESEARCH DATABASE: ExxonMobil’s Funding of Climate Science Denial

As the science grew stronger, Exxon’s embrace of its global, multi-million dollar denial campaign grew more intense.

Imperial Oil’s Public Denial Grew Stronger In 1990s Despite Its Own Prior Scientific Certainty

Imperial Oil, Exxon’s Canadian subsidiary, as these documents demonstrate, had a clear understanding of the environmental and climate consequences of CO2 pollution from fossil fuel combution, yet its public denial of these links grew stronger throughout the 1990s.

Imperial Oil chairman and CEO Robert Peterson wrote in “A Cleaner Canada” in 1998: “Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant but an essential ingredient of life on this planet.”

(DeSmog will take a deeper look at Imperial Oil’s conflicting CO2 positioning in public vs. its internal communications in future coverage.)

Reached for comment, Imperial Oil did not respond by press time. ExxonMobil media relations manager Alan Jeffers provided the following response:

“Your conclusions are inaccurate but not surprising since you work with extreme environmental activists who are paying for fake journalism to misrepresent ExxonMobil’s nearly 40-year history of climate research. To suggest that we had reached definitive conclusions, decades before the world’s experts and while climate science was in an early stage of development, is not credible.”

Legal Implications of Fossil Fuel Industry’s Knowledge of CO2 Pollution and Climate Impacts

Calls are growing louder to hold Exxon and other fossil fuel interests accountable for funding climate denial campaigns given their advanced understanding of climate science and the implications of CO2 pollution for the atmosphere going back many decades.

In multiple U.S. states and territories — including New York, California, Massachusetts and the Virgin Islands — state Attorneys General are investigating Exxon’s depth of knowledge regarding the climate impacts of burning fossil fuels, and whether the company broke the law by fueling anti-science campaigns through corporate contributions to organizations and individuals working to sow doubt and confusion about global warming. [DeSmog coverage: State Investigations Into What Exxon Knew Double, and Exxon Gets Defensive]

Climate activists and even presidential candidate Hillary Clinton are urging the Department of Justice and other relevant government agencies to investigate the fossil fuel industry’s deliberate efforts to delay policy action to address the climate threat.

Democratic U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Ed Markey (MA) and Brian Schatz (HIintroduced an amendment to the energy bill expressing Congress’s disapproval of the use of industry-funded think tanks and misinformation tactics aimed at sowing doubt about climate change science. But it remains to be seen what action Congress might take to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for delaying policy solutions and confusing the public on this critical issue.

Imagine where the world would be had Exxon continued to pursue and embrace its advanced scientific understanding of climate change decades ago, rather than pivoting antagonistically against the science by funding decades of denial?

    Obama vetoes GOP push to kill climate rules

    Repost from The Hill

    Obama vetoes GOP push to kill climate rules

    By Timothy Cama – 12/19/15 08:35 AM EST 
    Getty Images

    President Obama has vetoed a pair of measures by congressional Republicans that would have overturned the main pillars of his landmark climate change rules for power plants.

    The decision was widely expected, and Obama and his staff had repeatedly threatened the action as a way to protect a top priority and major part of his legacy.

    The White House announced early Saturday morning, as Obama was flying to Hawaii for Christmas vacation, that he is formally not taking action on the congressional measures, which counts as a “pocket veto” under the law. “Climate change poses a profound threat to our future and future generations,” the president said in a statement about Republicans’ attempt to kill the carbon dioxide limits for existing power plants.

    “The Clean Power Plan is a tremendously important step in the fight against global climate change,” Obama wrote, adding that “because the resolution would overturn the Clean Power Plan, which is critical to protecting against climate change and ensuring the health and well-being of our nation, I cannot support it.”

    That rule from the Environmental Protection Agency mandates a 32 percent cut in the power sector’s carbon output by 2030.

    He had a similar argument in support of his regulation setting carbon limits for newly-built fossil fuel power plants, saying the legislation against it “would delay our transition to cleaner electricity generating technologies by enabling continued build-out of outdated, high-polluting infrastructure.”

    Congress passed the resolutions in November and December under the Congressional Review Act, a little-used law that gives lawmakers a streamlined way to quickly challenge regulations from the executive branch.

    Obama had made clear his intent to veto the measures early on, so the passage by both GOP-led chambers of Congress was only symbolic.

    The votes came before and during the United Nations’ major climate change conference in Paris, as an attempt to undermine Obama’s negotiating position toward an international climate pact.

    Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee and a vocal climate change doubter, said it’s important to send a message about congressional disapproval, even with Obama’s veto.

    “While I fully expect these CRA resolutions to be vetoed, without the backing of the American people and the Congress, there will be no possibility of legislative resurrection once the courts render the final judgments on the president’s carbon mandates,” he said on the Senate floor shortly before the Senate’s action on the resolutions.

    Twenty-seven states and various energy and business interests are suing the Obama administration to stop the existing plant rule, saying it violates the Clean Air Act and states’ constitutional rights.

    They are seeking an immediate halt to the rule while it is litigated, something the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit could decide on later this month.

    All Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential election want to overturn the rules.

    In addition to the veto, Obama is formally sending the resolutions back to the Senate to make clear his intent to disapprove of them.

    Obama has now vetoed seven pieces of legislation, including five this year, the first year of his presidency with the GOP controlling both chambers of Congress.

      Energy-related CO2 emissions decreased in nearly every state from 2005 to 2013

      Repost from the U.S. Energy Information Administration

      Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions decreased in nearly every state from 2005 to 2013

      November 23, 2015, Principal contributor: Perry Lindstrom
      graph of per-capita energy-related carbon dioxide emissions by state, as explained in the article text
      Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions at the State Level, 2000-13.   Note: Click to see information for all states.

      The United States has a diverse energy landscape that is reflected in differences in state-level emissions profiles. Since 2005, energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions fell in 48 states (including the District of Columbia) and rose in 3 states. EIA’s latest analysis of state-level energy-related CO2 emissions includes data in both absolute and per capita terms, including details by fuel and by sector.

      This analysis measures emissions released at the location where fossil fuels are consumed. Therefore, to the extent that fuels are used in one state to generate electricity that is consumed in another state, emissions are attributed to the former rather than the latter. An analysis attributing emissions to the consumption of electricity, rather than to the production of electricity, would yield different results.

      map of changes in proved reserves by state/area, as explained in the article text
      Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions at the State Level, 2000-13.   Note: Click to see information for all states.

      The 10 states with the highest levels of energy-related CO2 emissions in 2013 accounted for half of the U.S. total. These 10 states also have large populations and account for slightly more than half (53%) of the nation’s total population. California was the second-highest emitter in absolute terms (353 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, or MMmt CO2), behind only Texas (641 MMmt CO2). But California was also the fourth-lowest emitter on a per capita basis, behind the District of Columbia, New York, and Vermont. Relatively small states such as Wyoming and North Dakota had much higher levels of per capita emissions in 2013, nearly seven times and five times the national average, respectively.

      Energy-related CO2 emissions come from coal, petroleum, and natural gas consumed within a state to produce electricity (38% of U.S. total), to transport goods or people (33%), to operate industrial processes (18%), or to directly fuel equipment in residential and commercial buildings (10%). The consumption levels by fuel and by sector vary considerably by state. For example, coal consumption accounted for 78% of energy-related CO2 emissions in West Virginia in 2013, while coal only accounted for 1% of emissions in California.

      Consumption of petroleum accounted for more than 90% of energy-related CO2 emissions in two states, Hawaii and Vermont, but for different reasons. In both states, emissions from the transportation sector accounted for more than 50% of energy-related emissions. In Vermont, the nonelectric (or direct) residential share of total emissions was 23%, mostly from petroleum-based fuels such as heating oil used to fuel furnaces and water heaters. Vermont’s electric power sector share of emissions from petroleum was only 0.2%, as very little of the state’s electricity in 2013 was generated from petroleum or any other fossil fuels. Hawaii, on the other hand, has very little direct use of petroleum for residential heating but much higher use of petroleum for power generation.

      More information about each state’s energy-related CO2 emissions is available in EIA’s report, Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions at the State Level, 2000-13.

      Principal contributor: Perry Lindstrom