Exxon lobbyists tricked into admitting Exxon only supports a carbon tax because it’ll never pass


Exxon Mobil Corp. XOM 0.29% Chief Executive Darren Woods apologized and disavowed statements made by two of the company’s top Washington lobbyists after an environmental group released a video recording of their dismissing its public positions on climate change.

In a recording with a representative for Greenpeace, which tricked the lobbyists into believing they were conducting video interviews with a recruiter, Keith McCoy, Exxon’s senior director of federal relations, called the company’s support for a carbon tax to help address climate change an “easy talking point” because it is a policy unlikely to ever be implemented.

“Nobody is going to propose a tax on all Americans,” Mr. McCoy said in a video of the interview that Greenpeace posted online Wednesday. “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 Exxon Mobil for? Well, we’re for a carbon tax.”

Mr. McCoy also said he had been “playing defense” by working to strip out certain provisions aimed at reducing carbon emissions from the massive infrastructure package proposed by President Biden. Exxon was seeking to water down the legislation by lobbying lawmakers in both parties, such as Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, he said.

“You stick to highways and bridges, then a lot of the negative stuff starts to come out,” Mr. McCoy said in the video. “There’s a germaneness…Why would you put in something on emissions reductions on climate change to oil refineries in a highway bill?”

In addition, Mr. McCoy appeared to say that Exxon had previously supported groups that attempted to discredit climate-change research, though he didn’t provide specifics, and added that Exxon didn’t commit any crimes.

“Did we aggressively fight against some of the science?” Mr. McCoy said. “Yes. Did we join some of these shadow groups to work against some of the early efforts? Yes, that’s true.”

Greenpeace said individuals working for its Unearthed investigative platform had posed as recruitment consultants looking to hire a lobbyist for a client and conducted video interviews with Mr. McCoy and Dan Easley, Exxon’s executive branch and regulatory team lead until February.

Hours after the group posted the video, Mr. Woods issued a statement saying that the views expressed by Messrs. McCoy and Easley don’t represent Exxon’s position on climate-change issues and that the men were never involved in developing the company’s policy positions on the issues discussed.

“We condemn the statements and are deeply apologetic for them, including comments regarding interactions with elected officials,” Mr. Woods said. “We were shocked by these interviews and stand by our commitments to working on finding solutions to climate change.”

Mr. McCoy and Mr. Easley couldn’t be reached for comment. Mr. Easley left Exxon this year to join Apex Clean Energy, a renewable-energy company.

In a post on the website LinkedIn, Mr. McCoy apologized for the comments made in the video.

“I am deeply embarrassed by my comments and that I allowed myself to fall for Greenpeace’s deception,” the post stated. “My statements clearly do not represent ExxonMobil’s XOM 0.29% positions on important public policy issues.”

Exxon is part of a group of companies that has been publicly advocating in Washington for a price on carbon as a way to reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions linked to climate change.