By BILL STRAUB
Scripps Howard News Service
July 19, 2005
The 12-member coalition, working under the umbrella campaign ExxposeExxon, is calling for a boycott of Exxon products and is urging people to reject job offers from a company that, the coalition asserts, is pushing for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and seeking to discredit research into global warming.
"ExxonMobil has the power to wreak significant damage on the world's environment, but it also has the power to direct the oil industry and American decision-makers toward a new energy future," the coalition said in one report. "As the world's largest and most profitable oil company, ExxonMobil should shed its past as an irresponsible oil company and move forward as a responsible energy company - one committed to more than drilling to the last drop."
The showdown between this coalition of environmental groups and the Texas-based oil giant demonstrates the different strategies employed to capture the hearts and minds of the American people in the Information Age.
Coalition members, ranging from the Sierra Club to the Union for Concerned Scientists to Greenpeace, have abandoned the sort of turf battles that have distinguished the environmental movement over the years to concentrate fire on the firm they maintain has shown the least sympathy toward Mother Nature. The groups are using the Internet and a new Web site - www.exposeexxon.com - to rally grassroots support and bring pressure on the company.
"Our nation can chart a course toward a cleaner, healthier energy future by harnessing the American ingenuity that has marked this country throughout its history," the coalition said in a letter to ExxonMobil chairman and CEO Lee Raymond dated July 12.
"ExxonMobil can be a part of that solution or continue to fight it tooth and nail. The Exxpose Exxon campaign will reach out to millions of Americans, contrasting the promise of clean energy and reduced oil dependence with ExxonMobil's efforts to keep us moving toward an economic and environmental dead end."
The coalition targeted ExxonMobil because of its pre-eminent status among oil companies, permitting it to not only echo the Bush administration and the Republican-led Congress on energy policy, but craft and implement a plan that "revolves around keeping America dependent on oil."
Exxon has maintained a relatively low profile since the outset of the campaign, releasing a statement defending its support for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - "We believe that with more than 30 years of industry experience on Alaska's North Slope and with recent technological advancements, ANWR can be developed with little threat to the ecology of the Coastal Plain" - and position on global warming - "ExxonMobil recognizes the risk of climate change and its potential impact on societies and ecosystems, and we continue to take actions and work with others to address that risk."
Much of its PR effort will concentrate on policy makers in Washington. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based governmental watchdog, Exxon has provided more than $8.2 million in individual, PAC and soft money political contributions since 1989 with most of the money - about 87 percent - going to Republicans. The company has spent more than $62 million on lobbying since 1997.
Exxon also is a member of Arctic Power, a grassroots, non-profit organization - supported by the Alaska legislature - that has pushed ANWR drilling since 1992. The group maintains that a vast majority of the refuge won't be affected by oil drilling. The development could add billions of dollars to federal coffers and create as many as 735,000 jobs. Arctic Power, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, has spent more than $1.7 million in federal lobbying since 1997.
It appears the efforts of Exxon and Arctic Power are bearing fruit. After years of false starts, Senate Republicans have managed to insert a provision into the 2006 budget resolution opening ANWR to drilling. But details remain unresolved and the question must still come up for a final vote in both the Senate and the House - hence the pressure from the environmental coalition.
Exxon has faced pressure from environmental groups before. The company also controls Esso, which is the firm's brand on the international market. Greenpeace has characterized Esso as "the world's number one climate criminal," blaming it for President Bush's 2001 decision to withdraw from the Kyoto protocol on climate change.
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