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Exxon CEO apologises for lobbyist’s comments in leaked video

Darren Woods, chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corp., speaks during the World Gas Conference in Washington, D.C., U.S, on Tuesday, June 26, 2018.  Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Darren Woods, chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corp., speaks during the World Gas Conference in Washington, D.C., U.S, on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

ExxonMobil’s chief executive Darren Woods says the company is “deeply apologetic” over comments caught on camera in a secret filming by Greenpeace that show one of the oil giant’s lobbyists saying a carbon tax the company has promoted for years is unlikely to happen.

Unearthed, Greenpeace UK’s news division, had an investigator pose as a head hunter when speaking with lobbyist Keith McCoy last month. Other researchers were involved in the work, which also included an interview with a former Exxon lobbyist.

“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,” Woods said in a statement Wednesday after the Greenpeace footage was aired by the UK’s Channel 4 News.

Referring to carbon taxes, McCoy in the film says: “Nobody is going to propose a tax on all Americans.”

“And the cynical side of me says, ‘Yeah we kind of know that.’ But it gives us a talking point. We can say well what is ExxonMobil for? Well we’re for a carbon tax.”

‘Deeply Embarrassed’

McCoy didn’t immediately respond to a LinkedIn message requesting comment. A posting on the LinkedIn profile read: “I am deeply embarrassed by my comments and that I allowed myself to fall for Greenpeace’s deception. My statements clearly do not represent ExxonMobil’s positions on important public policy issues.”

In the Greenpeace footage, McCoy also appeared to suggest that Exxon joined “shadow groups to work against some of the early efforts” on climate change. “There’s nothing illegal about that,” he said, while also describing how the oil giant is pushing to dilute climate provisions in President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Bill, Channel 4 reported.

“We condemn the statements and are deeply apologetic for them, including comments regarding interactions with elected officials,” Woods said.

“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.”

Exxon Activist Victory Marks Coming of Age for ESG Investing

Oil majors have come under mounting pressure from investors to address climate change. Exxon recently lost a six-month proxy fight that saw activist investor Engine No. 1 take three seats on the oil giant’s board, a coup that was heralded as a victory for climate advocates.

Woods said in a March interview that the company sees money-making opportunities in carbon offsets and partnerships with venture funds to finance carbon capture.

Exxon has been in the carbon-capture space for more than a decade but has been unwilling to commit significant amounts of capital to projects due to low returns, regulatory uncertainty and technological constraints. Bloomberg Green reported in December that Exxon indefinitely delayed a $260 million carbon-capture project in Wyoming due to the financial fallout from plunging oil prices in 2020 despite its clear environmental benefits.

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