They say the third time’s the charm, but #ExxonKnew activist Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), is hoping the idiom is wrong. He’s participating in a press conference at the Bonn climate talks Friday to re-release the same tired talking points in an attempt to tie the energy industry to Big Tobacco – a stunt he’s already pulled three times, with nothing to show for it.
Muffett is a board member of the Climate Accountability Institute, which co-hosted the infamous La Jolla, Calif. conference in 2012 where activists developed their #ExxonKnew playbook. He also attended the secret closed-door meeting at the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF) in January 2016 where activists brainstormed ways to “delegitimize” ExxonMobil and establish “in the public’s mind that Exxon is a corrupt institution.” Trial lawyer Matt Pawa, who is leading climate lawsuits filed by San Francisco and Oakland against the energy industry as part of the larger #ExxonKnew campaign, serves on the board of CIEL.
The newest rendition of CIEL’s really old tune will take the form of a press briefing where a panel of speakers will discuss some of their attempts to make energy companies pay for climate change. Or, as the January 2016 RFF meeting’s agenda more accurately put it, “creat[e] scandal.”
Muffett is scheduled to speak about a “new” report from the CIEL titled “Smoke and Fumes: The Legal and Evidentiary Basis for Holding Big Oil Accountable for the Climate Crisis.” According to the event announcement, “Smoke and Fumes presents the first comprehensive summary of what the oil industry knew about climate change, when they knew it, and how they misled investors and the public about climate science.”
It’s going to be a disappointing report, though, because it turns out “Big Oil” learned about climate change roughly around the time everyone else learned about it. Apparently these climate activists –whose sole job is to talk about climate change – were the last people to know about it. That’s the only explanation for their constant surprise that an industry could know about climate change years or decades after the media began reporting on the phenomenon.
If “Smoke and Fumes” sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Not only isn’t it straight out of the La Jolla playbook, it’s also the same stuff CIEL packaged up three times before! They first tried to release these documents in April 2016. When that effort flopped, they shuffled things around and tried again a month later. Disappointed with the result, they tried to flip the narrative: now it was Big Tobacco that had used Big Oil’s playbook. Undaunted by their past failures, CIEL is trotting out its fourth attempt to make Smoke and Fumes happen. (It’s not going to happen)
Reporters covering the Bonn climate talks should consider themselves warned: the CIEL is not releasing anything new. The organization has proven – not for a second or a third, but a fourth time now – that its schtick is just giving the same story a fresh coat of paint and hoping no one knows the difference.
Reporters heeded our advice and decided not to waste any ink on Smoke and Fumes 4.0, which is fortunate, because Energy In Depth’s full review of the report revealed it relied on several previous #ExxonKnew studies that have already been debunked time after time. The report did manage to bring something new to the table – it criticized oil and gas companies for investing in clean energy research:
“Not only did these companies fight against public understanding and regulation of the problem, they researched technologies that could have been — but apparently weren’t — used to mitigate or avoid the problem. Patents from the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s show that several oil companies researched fuel cells, solar energy, low-emissions vehicles, and emissions reduction equipment for CO2, among other technologies.”
There is nothing any oil and gas company could do that will ever be good enough for groups like CIEL. Groundbreaking research in solar energy technology is apparently a net-evil because it was conducted by an oil and gas company. Even still, cutting-edge research continues apace today as companies like Shell and ExxonMobil continue to rack up breakthroughs in carbon capture storage, advanced biofuels, and hydrogen fuel cells.