Trump’s new acting AG is against climate crusades against Exxon

By Chris White

President Donald Trump’s interim replacement for out-going Attorney General Jeff Sessions was an instrumental cog in the effort to investigate state attorneys general involved in a climate probe against ExxonMobil

Climate investigations against Exxon is unconstitutional and an infringement on the oil producer’s First Amendment rights, according to Matthew Whitaker, Trump’s temporary choice to take over for Session. Whitaker is the executive director of the ethics watchdog, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust.

“Let’s put aside the fact this probe was both unconstitutional and unethical. More disturbing is how these same attorneys general … are actively blocking ethics watchdog organizations like mine from further exposing their behavior,” Whitaker wrote in a 2016 editorial noting his role filing public information requests targeting the AGs.

He was referring to Democratic attorneys general who used the investigation in 2016 to target communications between Exxon and 142 conservative groups, skeptic scientists and other academics.

U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker subpoenaed Exxon after joining three Democratic state attorneys general from California, Massachusetts and New York in an investigation into whether the company misled the public on the science behind global warming.

Walker’s subpoena is only one part of a larger investigation into Exxon being pushed by mostly Democratic AGs (Walker is a liberal-leaning Independent) to prove the company orchestrated a conspiracy to fool the public about global warming.

Whitaker also chastised former New York AG Eric Schneiderman and his Massachusetts colleague, Maura Healey, for their role in the probe.

“Our judicial system was created as the third branch of our government to uphold laws and see that justice prevails,” he wrote. “It was not designed to be corrupted into a political tool, used as a weapon to persecute, intimidate and silence individuals and groups over mere differences of opinion.”

Trump has long considered firing Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation and blames him for the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump hinted in the run up to the 2018 midterm elections that he would fire Sessions. It is not yet clear who the president will nominate to replace Sessions.

The company and New York have haggled over the issue for years before the state officially pursued legal charges.

Exxon engaged in a “longstanding fraudulent scheme” to deceive investors, analysts and underwriters “concerning the company’s management of the risks posed to its business by climate change regulation,” the lawsuit notes.

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Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/The Ray Center

One thought on “Trump’s new acting AG is against climate crusades against Exxon

  1. Exxon-Mobil is becoming part of the solution. It has made a breakthrough in biofuels from pond algae.

    In seven years, 2025, and continued advancements regarding gene-editing and farming of algae, they estimate production of about 10,000 barrels of biofuels from algae per day. That’s a tiny amount compared to crude production.

    “Ten thousand barrels a day would be world-scale for current biofuels,” says Vijay Swarup, vice president for research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company. “It is an important step, because we will learn about the engineering fundamentals tied with the biology fundamentals.

    The goal is hundreds of thousands of barrels a day. If we didn’t think this as scalable, reliable, affordable, and sustainable, we would not be working on it. We proceed only with scalable solutions. We are not interested in niche applications or additive applications. The goal is large scale.”

    The algae would be grown on arid land that is not capable of growing food crops
    The process uses saltwater to avoid burdening the local water supply
    At some sites, including the test site near the Salton Sea, the algae farms may be able to use waste CO2.

    Exxon’s continued investments in non-fossil-fuels is happening under a cloud of increasing attention–and major lawsuits–for how much the company knew about the climate damage its product was causing.

    Startup efforts by other companies attempting to make biofuels from algae have failed in the past, in part because they made rosy assumptions about oil prices.

    Whereas a truck running on biofuel still has CO2eq emissions, those combustion emissions can be considered carbon neutral, because the algae absorb almost all of the CO2eq as it grows.

    Upstream CO2eq: The CO2eq of upstream energy, likely from fossil sources for at least the next few decades, has to be counted. That CO2eq could equal at least 40% of the combustion CO2eq. That CO2eq would be from:

    – Providing make-up seawater to maintain salinity
    – Operating and maintaining the facilities
    – Providing large quantities of fertilizer to grow algae
    – Processing the algae oil into B100
    – Transporting the B100 to users

    NOTE: The CO2 of fossil fuels is from carbon that was buried many millions of years ago.

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