I’m not sure where this comes from (David Hone reminded me of it) but the UCS has The Climate Deception Dossiers which breathlessly tells us Internal fossil fuel industry memos reveal decades of disinformation—a deliberate campaign to deceive the public that continues even today. This is news? Its not news to me. But wait, there’s UPDATE (July 9, 2015): As this report went to press, a newly discovered email from a former Exxon employee revealed that the company was already factoring climate change into decisions about new fossil fuel extraction as early as 1981 which leads to Former Exxon Employee Says Company Considered Climate Risks as Early as 1981. Which tells us
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (July 8, 2015)—Exxon employees considered how climate change should factor into decisions about new fossil fuel extraction as early as 1981… Exxon first got interested in climate change in 1981 because it was seeking to develop the Natuna gas field off Indonesia…
and this leads to the exciting memo which is from a guy called Lenny Bernstein, and says things like Corporations are interested in environmental impacts only to the extent that they affect profits, either current or future. They may take what appears to be altruistic positions to improve their public image, but the assumption underlying those actions is that they will increase future profits. ExxonMobil is an interesting case in point. I think that’s correct (I mean; as a description of their behaviour; though notice that statement is from a former Exxon guy and, I presume, doesn’t represent Exxon’s formal position).
Exxon first got interested in climate change in 1981 because it was seeking to develop the Natuna gas field off Indonesia. This is an immense reserve of natural gas, but it is 70% CO2. That CO2 would have to be separated to make the natural gas usable… the usual practice was to vent the CO2 to the atmosphere… if Natuna were developed and its CO2 vented to the atmosphere, it would be the largest point source of CO2 in the world and account for about 1% of projected global CO2 emissions… In the 1980s, Exxon needed to understand the potential for concerns about climate change to lead to regulation that would affect Natuna and other potential projects. They were well ahead of the rest of industry in this awareness. Other companies, such as Mobil, only became aware of the issue in 1988, when it first became a political issue. Natural resource companies ‐ oil, coal, minerals ‐ have to make investments that have lifetimes of 50‐100 years. Whatever their public stance, internally they make very careful assessments of the potential for regulation, including the scientific basis for those regulations. Exxon NEVER denied the potential for humans to impact the climate system. It did question ‐ legitimately, in my opinion ‐ the validity of some of the science… Having spent twenty years working for Exxon and ten working for Mobil, I know that much of that ethical behavior comes from a business calculation that it is cheaper in the long run to be ethical than unethical. Safety is the clearest example of this. ExxonMobil knows all too well the cost of poor safety practices. The Exxon Valdez is the most public, but far from the only, example of the high cost of unsafe operations. The value of good environmental practices are more subtle, but a facility that does a good job of controlling emission and waste is a well run facility, that is probably maximizing profit.
This was spun by various, including the Graun, as Exxon knew of climate change in 1981, email says – but it funded deniers for 27 more years. A newly unearthed missive from Lenny Bernstein, a climate expert with the oil firm for 30 years, shows concerns over high presence of carbon dioxide in enormous gas field in south-east Asia factored into decision not to tap it.
Anyway, the point is, I don’t understand any of this. Exxon had an interest in a gas field, it would have been troublesome to exploit, partly for CO2-GW-related reasons, so they backed off. But that’s not a bad thing; if anything, its a good thing. As to funding the deniers, meh, that’s old news.
Curiously, in all this they haven’t got a moment to spare for what did happen to the Natuna gas field. http://www.offshore-technology.com/projects/natuna says (via the internet archive)
A 1980, 50-50 venture in Natuna D-Alpha area, East Natuna, between Pertamina (Indonesia’s state-owned petroleum company) and Exxon Mobil Corp of the US, didn’t result in production. The 71% CO2 content made gas extraction from the huge 1.3-trillion-cubic-metre area expensive, and development difficult. Despite Exxon’s $400m and Pertamina’s $60m investments, the Indonesian Government terminated its contract with Exxon in 2007 leaving Pertamina in charge. East Natuna has been little explored over the last 15 years, mainly due to political disruption, its remoteness, and because discoveries such as Exxon’s have proved uneconomic to develop.
So it kinda looks to me as though no-one else has touched it either. So this isn’t even Exxon-specific.