Just 24 hours after Greenpeace published explosive video of senior ExxonMobil executives suggesting they had worked to undermine Joe Biden’s climate policies, further footage appears to show the oil firm also lobbied against meaningful action on plastic waste.
In the clip, Exxon’s senior lobbyist, Keith McCoy, admitted the company – the world’s largest producer of single-use plastics – had used the same tactics it had previously deployed to derail policies designed to tackle the climate crisis, in an effort to head off “comprehensive regulations” on plastic in the US.
In a conversation with Greenpeace reporters posing as recruitment consultants, Mr McCoy explained the company’s thinking on potential regulation of plastics.
“You want to get smart on it right, because you know it’s coming,” he said.
“It’s just like on climate change, right. So when climate change came, well it’s here, but well when it started, you started to have conversations to say, ‘well you can’t completely change the electric grid from coal and gas into wind, and here’s why’.
“It’s the same conversation: ‘you can’t ban plastics because here’s why’, or ‘you can’t recycle you know, legislate 100 per cent recycling because here’s why’.”
During the conversations, Mr McCoy also appeared to admit that Exxon produced products containing highly toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, also known as forever chemicals.
These chemicals are extremely long-lasting, never breaking down in the environment and building up in people’s bodies where small doses have been linked to cancer, immune system damage and other diseases.
Exxon had previously denied manufacturing PFAS, Greenpeace said, but the undercover footage shows Mr McCoy admitting the company manufactures products containing PFAS.
Asked about why use of PFAS could be damaging to the Exxon Mobil brand, Mr McCoy said: “We think if word got out that ExxonMobil manufactured those chemicals, that ExxonMobil uses those chemicals, it’s a talking point you know. It becomes the ExxonMobil chemical and that is just going to hurt the effort.”
He said if members of Congress “start talking about how this is an ExxonMobil chemical and ExxonMobil is poisoning our waterways, the debate is pretty much over.”
Greenpeace plastic campaigner Nina Schrank told The Independent: “Whether it’s climate or plastic, Exxon keeps talking out of both sides of their mouth. Their chief executive claimed they share society’s concerns about plastic waste, yet one of their top lobbyists says they’re deploying the same tactics they’re using on climate to delay action on plastic.
“Meanwhile, Exxon continues to be the world’s largest producer of single-use plastic waste and one of just 20 firms responsible for half of the throwaway plastic waste on the planet. For as long as there’s profit in polluting, Exxon and other plastic giants will carry on polluting.”
She added: “That’s why we need governments to step in with targets to cut single-use plastic and turn off the tap on the flood of waste that’s filling up our oceans and harming communities.”
In the video released by Greenpeace on Wednesday, Mr McCoy alleged ExxonMobil had joined “shadow groups” to pursue climate change denial.
In the video he said: “Did we aggressively fight against some of the science? Yes. Did we hide our science? Absolutely not. Did we join some of these shadow groups to work against some of the early efforts? Yes, that’s true. But there’s nothing, there’s nothing illegal about that.
“We were looking out for our investments. We were looking out for our shareholders.”
Following the airing of the first video, Darren Woods, chairman and chief ex of ExxonMobil Corporation, said: “Comments made by the individuals in no way represent the company’s position on a variety of issues, including climate policy.”
An ExxonMobil spokesperson told The Independent: “ExxonMobil does not manufacture PFAS. Any statements to the contrary are simply false.
“Products the company manufacturers are disclosed with government authorities and are publicly available.
“This is an example of the many misstatements and false characterisations made in the recorded interviews. We condemn the statements. They in no way represent the company’s position on the issue.
“Like many manufacturers, we use PFAS compounds in some products. For example, PFAS are found in common products such as wire insulation, circuit boards, and computer components.”