The Real Bottom Line

Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog recently considered the impact of recent revelations that Exxon had covered up–lied about– decades of its own research on climate change.

In a move that echoes similar scandals involving the tobacco industry and cancer research, Exxon conducted research into fossil fuels and global warming, discovered it had a major problem that threatened public safety, and quickly decided to start intentionally misleading the public and peddling doubt and uncertainty rather than confront the problem.

Exxon could have chosen to expose the problems with fossil fuels and become the world’s leading investor in and producer of renewable energies. It would have been risky and reduced short-term profits, but it would potentially have set the company up for massive long-term growth. It would also, of course, have been the right thing to do. But that’s not the path Exxon chose. Exxon chose to lie, cheat, cover up, collude with other oil companies, and bring the entire world to the brink of global climate disruption and destruction.

When does a company’s efforts to protect its bottom line become criminal?

When small businesses engage in fraudulent behaviors–the auto mechanic who lies about the work your car requires, the doctor who performs unneeded procedures, the jeweler who sells you a “gold” necklace that isn’t–we prosecute those responsible.

The powers-that-be have deemed certain financial institutions “too big to fail”– and also, evidently, too big to prosecute. Is “big energy” similarly exempt from the laws that govern the rest of us?

Does the sheer magnitude of the harm they’ve done somehow insulate them?

What’s the real bottom line?


  1. These are the same “studies” that climate change deniers continue to site to stop alternative transportation efforts in many municipalities. When will we learn to believe the science rather than commission studies to deny it?

  2. I believe we have been lied to for decades about the sources of cancer and successes of cancer research and treatment; unless our family and friends hid the fact of having cancer from us there can be no other explanation. The number of deaths of my friends and family plus the number of those being treated for cancer proves to me that all businesses producing carcinogens have lied for years. Now women are being told to put off mammograms till age 45 rather than age 40 and have them less often. Can they reasonably explain the current number of women with breast cancer in their 30’s who would have gone untreated had they not sought answers at the first sign? Does it start with the primary physician who ignores or poo-poos a small lump? I know of one person that happened to at age 32; her mother died of breast cancer, her sister was undergoing chemo and radiation treatments for breast cancer. had she not immediately changed doctors when she found that lump in her breast she would not be with us today.

    Most, but not all, of the cancer causes can be traced back to the businesses producing and spreading carcinogens in all forms to cover up the fact and continue making money. The medical BUSINESS is also culpable and covering up to save money.

    Climate change, Global Warming and hazardous air pollution containing carcinogens go hand-in-hand. The “real bottom line?” Stop the lies on all levels and at all sources…the real question is HOW do we accomplish this?

  3. The problem with so-called “Climate Change” is that it started in the 70’s as a New Ice Age, changed in the 90’s to “Global Warming,” and is now called “Climate Change,” for which every storm or sunny day is blamed.

    In the late 80’s to early 90’s, a radical Cultural Marxism emerged which seeks to restrict personal mobility, personal autonomy, choices in living and desires to force everyone into a dense common boring unwelcome lifestyle.

    Almost on cue, Climate Change, nee Global Warming, showed up. It’s just too convenient. If Climate Change weren’t a ready tool for the social engineers to enforce Cultural Marxism that appeared just at the moment it was needed to service a sinister social agenda, it might be more credible.

    If researchers outside colleges, universities and placed funded by grants confirmed Climate Change, it might be more believable. As everyone knows, if you want to get and keep a university job, you are expected to toe the party line, or you’re shown the door. Academic research has lost most or all of its credibility in the last 30 years.

    So-called Climate Change just needs to be supported by real, unbiased, research and replicated by more real, unbiased, research before it can be accepted.

  4. The real bottom line is that our society is so dependent on oil (gasoline, heating fuel, synthetic fibers, plastics) that we cannot conceive of a world without them. We are fearful of the oil industry and the hold it has over our everyday lives. We dare not bite the hand that feeds our life style.

    “brink” of global climate disruption and destruction? BRINK??? Unless you have been asleep for the past two decades we passed that “brink” and tipped over into the abyss a decade and half ago. Most are able to acknowledge that fact. There will always be a few who rail and deny against any and all change even if it means lying to themselves and everyone else.

  5. Gopper, your entire comment espousing climate change as an academic hoax (“If researchers outside colleges, universities and placed funded by grants confirmed Climate Change, it might be more believable.”) does nothing at all to address the study conducted by Exxon, which is not an academic institution. Sheila stated that the “Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog recently considered the impact of recent revelations that Exxon had covered up–lied about– decades of its own research on climate change.” The research being referred to its “own research” which negates your comment, “If researchers outside colleges, universities and placed funded by grants confirmed Climate Change, it might be more believable.” and destroys your argument as well.

  6. Gopper; take the day off…we thinking people have always known that Climate Change is on-going since the beginning of time. We also know that the terms Climate Change and Global Warming are NOT interchangeable because they are not the same. Humans can do nothing about Climate Change but can slow Global Warming. You failed this science course big time.

  7. JoAnn:

    What’s true is that you’ve always wanted there to be a reason to attack progress, personal mobility and freedom.

    Global Warming/Climate Change was the only thing you could find around 1992 to grab onto, so you locked onto it like a gila monster.

    Anthropogenic Climate Change is largely regarded as a hoax, but it fits your agenda, so you’ll cling to it until another luddite white paper comes along, then you’ll switch horses to the new banner under which you can attack progress and freedom.

    For Cultural Marxists, so-called “Climate Change” is an essential tool in getting their agenda deployed.

  8. Climate change includes both changes to warmer and cooler ages in time. We are now on the road to “warmer” and science is telling us that such current “climate change” is man-made. We know of changes wrought by volcanic activity, formation of the Great Lakes at the end of the last Ice Age some 11,000 years ago with the melting of retreating glaciers etc. With overwhelming evidence that we are daily poisoning our land, water and atmosphere (see China for an extreme example), why isn’t a cover up of such information not a criminal act, however funded and commissioned and for whatever purpose? As usual, we must look to the Congress for relief, but unfortunately, the current Congress seems willing to sacrifice the world’s public health to corporate bottom lines in a quid pro quo with corporate “campaign contributions,” which in my day were called bribes. The solution to climate change is people change – in the Congress.

  9. The high school physics that predicts global warming as a consequence of fossil fuel burning has been thought true for over 200 years and proven for over 100 years. What was harder to predict was the degree to which that business would grow and therefore the magnitude of those consequences.

    The clear warning began before the new millennium and so did efforts to develop practical solutions and the efforts by fossil fuel business interests to make more money regardless of the cost to others. That’s when they started investing in brand marketing to buy conservative minds.

    As much as I try to immerse myself in the field I have yet to uncover a legitimate estimate of how much that not unusual business practice has cost the world. Primarily because of the impossibility to accurately account for those costs. For instance how to account for the reasoning behind the Bush holy wars? I think that the protection of oil supplies accounts for at least half of the ongoing costs of our interest in the Middle East but some might say 100%.

    Suffice it to say that the wealth that the fossil fuel industry accumulated from buying those minds is less than the costs already payed by taxpayers for the consequences. Probably much less.

    I don’t see how that can be regarded in any way as not being organized crime. The case that was won against big tobacco was a clear precedent.

    It, like the tobacco-cancer link, will be accepted as standard knowledge in time but the rate of acceptance of it that slows solutions is obvious and prosecutable and provable.

    People deserve jail time for stealing from the public treasury but realistically the lawyers that can be hired with a small part of the stolen money will limit the liability to only another small part of the loot. Just like the BP Gulf disaster or the Exxon Valdez in principle but caused by executive malfeasance rather than engineering and operating incompetence.

    We owe to both ourselves and future generations to enforce our existing laws and recover stolen trillions. A Democratic President and Congress will. A Republican President and Congress won’t. It is that simple and clear. The conservatives whose minds have been bought are in the Republican Party.

    We can’t prevent minds already compromised from having been damaged. We can set an example for ongoing business and recover some of the taxpayer losses by being what we claim – a land that lives by the laws of the land.

  10. There has been much work around the world on establishing a supportable cost of carbon. The financial consequences mostly borne by taxpayers to adapt to addition global warming from additional greenhouse gas atmospheric concentrations. Now that we know that those in the business of changing our climate can be made to cover our costs for their business.

    Again a Democratic President and Congress will initiate that necessary action. A Republican President and Congress will not.

  11. Dear Gopper, Secretary Clinton summed up your problem yesterday, so I’ll just quote her, “The facts don’t fit your narrative.”

  12. Gopper; actually, I was taught about Climate Change in 1948 in an Indianapolis Public School so by 1992, it was old news to me. It wasn’t till high school (another Indianapolis Public School) that we were taught about pollution and even later that it was destroying the environment. It was in recent years that “destroying the environment” was renamed Global Warming; probably took that long for the meaning to be fully understood…and admitted…and the destruction recognized. The number of sources of Global Warming between 1948 and 1992 cannot be counted due to being denied and hidden by big businesses. Exxon for example. That total (whatever it was) has been duplicated time and again between 1992 and 2015.

  13. I have argued before that all posters here add to the quality of the discussion. So today I would propose Gopper’s comments as an example of the degree to which the fossil fuel industry’s mind buying has been successful. Clearly the Goppers of the world will stand in the way of progress in limiting the damages of greenhouse gas induced climate change. To some degree they will successfully slow progress thereby transferring trillions from the public treasury to private investors pockets all due to success at brand marketing – making more money regardless of the cost to others.

  14. Sheila raises the right question -why hasn’t the fossil fuel industry pushed the envelope to lead the change on renewal energies? There’s money to be made in it. Oil won’t last forever. Why not be ahead of the curve?

    The 2008 recession was created by financial institutions which let their own excesses overcome their own best interest. (Ours too). The fossil fuel folks don’t see their own demise either, and it’ll affect us all.

  15. Well, I don’t post very often, but his one has got me on a rant – so please bear with me and sorry for the length.

    Here’s the deal on global warming – There are four possibilities – really more than that, but the others are partials of these four:

    ONE: Climate Change is Real

    A: We do nothing about Climate Change
    RESULT? We have increasing temperatures negatively affecting agricultures world wide. The equatorial zone becomes unlivable with agriculture impossible (outside of raising cactus) because of the heat, and the Rain Forests become deserts. We are growing Cotton in Southern Canada. Many fertile areas become deserts. Antarctica becomes the breadbasket of the world (but can’t produce enough to feed everyone). Mass migrations start making what’s going on in the Eastern Europe look like a picnic.

    B: We act to reduce greenhouse gas output and look for ways to reduce carbon in the atmosphere
    RESULT? If we do a good enough job, we reduce the rate of warming and eventually turn it around and come back to a more livable climate

    TWO: Climate change is not real

    A: We do nothing
    RESULT? We go along pretty much as we are, things start cooling off again (not sure how this happens, but that’s what this scenario assumes).

    B: We act to reduce greenhouse gas output and look for ways to reduce carbon in the atmosphere
    RESULT? Oil becomes a minor energy source and we are no longer worried about Middle East Oil and stop fighting wars for oil, or even for energy. We also no longer have to worry about oil spills and pollution and earthquakes from fracking. In fact, energy becomes a matter of supporting infrastructure instead of looking for resources.

    Obviously, doing nothing risks great harm, and doing everything has good results even if there is no such thing as global warming.

    With these circumstances who would want to risk doing nothing?

    You could argue that spending money on global warming will cause harm, but that argument assumes that cutting government spending is like cutting your home budget. Cutting your home budget does not affect your income. Cutting government spending has a major affect on government income. Take the medicaid that many states have not taken. If they take the medicaid, yes, after three years they have to pay 10 percent. But the money that comes into the state from the feds for health care doesn’t just evaporate when it pays medical bills. Much of it goes to the people working at the hospital, and the people supplying the hospital. They pay Federal, State and sometimes local income tax on the money, and then they mostly spend it. And when they spend it they pay sales tax which goes to the state. And also, much of waht’s left goes to the people who work at the stores and to the people who supply the stores. This should sound familiar at this point. So a great deal of tax revenue is achieved by the state, federal and sometimes the local governments because of this spending. But we started by talking about taking away government spending – so if a state has medicaid and then drops it, it looses all of this tax income that it has had.

    Gopper, you say that we “cultural marxists” (that really isn’t any of us, as far as I can see – maybe you should give us a definition?) who want to “restrict personal mobility, personal autonomy, choices in living and desires to force everyone into a dense common boring unwelcome lifestyle.”

    Personally I want better personal mobility, in the form of high speed rail – just because I am sharing the ride doesn’t mean that I’m not personally getting mobility, and getting there faster to boot. With High Speed Rail I could leave at 6 am and return at 10 pm, spending the whole day in Chicago. I can go to Chicago now by train, but I get there at noon and have to leave to get home the same day at 1:00 pm.

    Personal Autonomy? I’ve never had more! I am a transgender woman and a lesbian, a mother to a 12 and 15 year old and a father to a 45 year old. I am out as a transgender person – my rules is that if I start to avoid saying things because I am trans, it’s time to tell you that I am trans. To do otherwise says that I am embarrassed about being trans, and I’m not. And I have never had any problem with living this way, including 4 years working retail in a not particularly liberal area. Oh, and I transitioned 22 years ago, and have been living this way after about the first year. I get to be exactly who I am, and by anyone’s standard I am a bit out of the ordinary. But my values match most peoples. I value my marriage, my kids, my community, my church, my kid’s great schools, I love my city and state and country and hold our soldiers who fight for our freedom in great esteem, (even when some yahoo president sends them where there is not threat to our country). One of the larger questions in all of our lives is “How do we join together and still stay free”*. I am there, I don’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not, yet I have strong and loving community around me. How could I have more personal autonomy then I have now? Your idea of personal autonomy seems to be about doing whatever you want without concern for anyone else.

    Choices in Living? Seems so much like personal autonomy that I’m not even going to address it.

    and forcing every one into a “dense common boring unwelcome lifestyle”. I don t’get this one at all. I find that I am more free to live as I want then has ever before been possible in the history of this country. And I find my life to be fascinating and exciting from rising in the morning to going to bed at night. What the heck is it that you can’t do that you want to do? Impose your religious beliefs on your employees? Refusing service to some gay person? Do you think you should be able to refuse service to blacks as well? If people were able to refuse service to gays, there would be places in this country where gays wouldn’t be able to get a hotel and would have to sleep in the cars and would not be able to get a meal (well, maybe at the back door). That is why civil rights apply to public accommodations.

    Enough, and thanks for reading, if you got this far.

  16. Hillary’s now talking about facts, Pat? That’s unusual. She usually tries to talk about the effect of the facts, not the facts, themselves.

    “What difference does it make?”

    She hung Chris Stevens out to dry, running her private war in Libya. She hung the country out to dry, running her shadow State Department from her own quarters, completely off the books of the American government.

    Hillary’s nasty, but her phony drawl is good comedy. Seriously, Hillary is a very bad person. Sanders is misguided, looking to the Sandinistas as intellectuals, but he’s not a polluted soul. Hillary is unctuous, inky and malevolent.

    Donald Trump is literally angelic and a savior compared to Hillary.

  17. If anyone cares about the science. The Big Bang loosed into the universe only energy. Quickly some cooled into matter having among other things the property of gravity – all matter attracting all other matter. That property accumulated the most prevalent matter, hydrogen, into bodies we call stars, and caused pressures and temperatures so extreme that they caused fusion to occur, converting hydrogen to helium and bringing back some of the energy.

    Once energy is created the universe is stuck with it until the next Big Bang or forever, which ever comes first.

    Earth gets our energy continuously from the sun. It comes, it is reflected by, or transmitted through, or absorbed by matter. That absorbed causes temperature. Temperature in turns causes the matter to radiate, guess what, energy. So all matter is at a temperature that balances energy received with energy radiated.

    Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations restrict earth’s radiation of energy back out to space. The earth therefore has to warm to rebalance outgoing with incoming.

    So increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations produce warming always – no other possibility.

    Climate is the long term average of weather and vice versa.

    Mankind in deciding on where to live considered weather and built civilization accordingly. As we burn fossil fuels we change greenhouse gas concentrations which changes climate which changes weather which requires the adaptation of civilization to suit.

  18. We all know that science is what mankind knows based on evidence and faith is what mankind assumes in the absence of evidence.

    Note Gopper’s last post. It is completely faith based. No evidence presented or needed for him to assume what he does.

    His prerogative. Ours is to hold either faith based or evidence based beliefs.

    I personally try to stay as realistic as possible by believing what the universe tells us rather than assuming that the universe listens to us and gives us what we wish for.

  19. “just because I am sharing the ride doesn’t mean that I’m not personally getting mobility”

    Let’s cut this off, right now. You’re not “sharing” anything. You can’t “share” what you don’t own.

    You aren’t getting personal mobility. You’re getting a pale version of it. Rail goes on very defined routes, usually not where anyone is going, and you can’t park your train in front of the gun shop or the Brass Flamingo.

    “With High Speed Rail I could leave at 6 am and return at 10 pm, spending the whole day in Chicago.”

    Who wants to go to Chicago? I want to go to Bedford. I want to go to Greenwood. I want to go to the Brass Flamingo.

    After that sentence, I didn’t understand a thing you wrote.

  20. Funny, I remember a colleague who, back in the ’90s, had thoroughly researched alternative energy technologies looking for career and investment oportunities. He told me that one of the biggest players in solar electricity generation technology was… Exxon. Given that, what they were doing could be seen as preserving and maximizing the advantage that they might draw from their proprietary information. I don’t see the US defining that as a crime any time soon.

    It just seems wrong to impute any kind of moral conscience to a corporation or to hold a corporation to any moral standard. We understand instead that they can only operate to maximize profits. To expect a corporation to do otherwize would be place them on the same level as an actual person.

  21. For those who assume that science is intuitive:

    When elementary stuff takes the form of matter time and space exist. It takes so much time to get from here to there depending on speed.

    When elemental stuff takes the form of energy instead however both time and space disappear. A given partial/wave of energy unencumbered by matter is in all of the places that it will ever be and all the times there will ever be all in an instant of what matter experiences as time and place.


  22. “It just seems wrong to impute any kind of moral conscience to a corporation or to hold a corporation to any moral standard.”

    Correct. Corporations, despite what the Supreme Court says, are not people. They exist only in the legal world and are therefore subject to all applicable laws.

    Morality is exclusively a human abstraction.

  23. many people that I find to be credible agree there will be climate change. However, there is no positive evidence that it will be global warming. It could be a new ice age. Every so often there is a list of “things to do” where credible experts (Hawking, Gates, various recognized experts) suggest where to put our money. I see malaria elimination, clean water, targeting education improvements, eliminating obesity, etc. Nowhere do I see” spend money on global warming” on the top 100 list. Since there is a finite amount of money I would like to see what good cause is eliminated to promote a vague climate change.

  24. Pray tell, what evidence did Exxon have that man is causing dangerous global warming that will doom the planet? This isn’t the same thing as cigarette smoking and cancer for which causation has been proven beyond any doubt. Global warming theory relies completely on computer simulations of the future climate based on feeding certain information into a computer. You have to assume the information fed in is accurate and complete and that the models accurately take into consideration all factors that influence the climate. Neither is the case. so I have to water what smoking gun evidence of man-made global warming Exxon supposedly had. My guess is none.

  25. It should be “so I have to wonder”. That’s what I get trying to rely on dictation on my cell phone.

  26. Exxon is a corporation. A corporation is a fictional entity. One cannot imprison a fictional entity. Corporations exist, in large part, to shield investors from risk. Corporations are not too big to imprison. Inherently a corporation cannot be imprisoned. If anyone is serious about corporate wrongdoing, the place to start is prosecution of the individuals responsible for the decisions made. That rarely happens. The Enron fiasco is an example. The corporations are not too big to prosecute. Their directors and major shareholders (if they are people; some are other corporations) are too influential to be prosecuted. That is a dynamic of the problem.

  27. Paul, you have to ignore physics and a ton of actual data to deny global warming. We have satellites now you know and the Internet and radios and computers.

    You’re right though about the future of everything. It only exists in our ability to predict and model it. I assume that you have investments so you must agree that there will be one and it’s no longer a complete mystery to humanity.

    J. England, your notion would have been accurate a couple of hundred years ago but science has used those centuries well. We now know the major variables of climate. Notice that I said “we” meaning humanity not you or I necessarily.

    So these posts are more evidence of the brainwashing engaged in by Exxonmobil and the Kochs for self serving brand marketing.

    We tend to think that certain personalities as tending to be conservative. The truth is that faith based thinkers are not necessarily conservative but more easily led astray by well done brand marketing. So “conservative” is a condition not a worldview. In the absence of brand marketing by corporations trying to rig the game in their favor it wouldn’t exist.

  28. One other thing Paul: the planet is not doomed. Our civilization is adapted to a climate different than what we are creating. The infrastructure of civilization has to be rebuilt accordingly.

    There is some risk that the new climate will make it impossible to feed and water everybody and already people are dying as a result of more energetic weather so some of humanity has a will pay full price for industries actions but the planet is not at risk.

  29. One reason their climate change position will doom the hard right is that there is no faith required to know what’s right. It’s all science and no opinion and assumption. This is unusual for issues. Usually faith and evidence based positions are part of the explanation. Opinion on both sides is more or less supported by what’s known for sure.

    It’s a strange but final end to our dark ages.

  30. Pete;
    I didn’t get that last sentence. It is certain that the planet will remain. Probably for billions of years. Just as it has been here for billions of years. Without us! Mankind is another story. We are but a second on the history of time and just as many others, we occupy only a period of that span. More than likely, that span would have been elongated had we not morphed into the predators we have become. Native Americans would have preserved this country for thousands of years, just as they had. Had we learned from them, you would still be able to drink from every stream. But we had to ‘civilize’ them and you see tdhe results. The damage to our planet cannot be reversed at this time.

    As The Bible admonished, we should have gone to the ant to be wise. No problem, the alligators, jellyfish, and ferns will not miss us.

  31. I probably have more faith in technology than you Earl. While any advance can be used for good or evil, mankind over the long road seems to trend towards good.

    We know how to live with sufficient energy yet stable climate. No inventions are required only will.

    I believe that we’ll find the will in Paris near the end of the year.

  32. This is the third time I have gotten on line in an attempt to respond to Paul’s lack of information regarding Global Warming; there is no way to reach someone who makes a reference to cigarette smoking causing cancer after all these years. That is old news; I can’t help but wonder if he is aware there are many causes for cancer in addition to smoking, scientific facts back that up.

    OK, I again deleted lengthy comments and will just suggest, in vain I am aware, that Mr. Ogden put aside his staunch Republican partisanship view of life and this earth, forget for an hour or so that Al Gore is a Democrat, and watch “An Inconvenient Truth” for some very inconvenient truths regarding Climate Change, Global Warming and the interaction between them that is slowly and steadily destroying the planet. Including Exxon…and IPALCO locally.

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