Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • This video is sponsored by Brilliant, if you stick around until the end, I'll give you

  • a link to get 20% off a premium membership!

  • In July 1977, Exxon held a meeting in its headquarters and a climate scientist told

  • the truth: without strong action to curb fossil fuel emissions within the next 5 to 10 years,

  • the world would face a warming trend that could spell disaster for countries around

  • the globe. These were harsh facts, especially for the executives of one of the largest oil

  • and gas companies in the world. But Exxon leaders didn't face these daunting climate

  • change facts with opposition, instead, they embraced the scientist's conclusions and

  • poured money into funding state-of-the-art climate models and research vessels to gain

  • a better understanding of the climate change their industry was causing. As InsideClimate

  • New's senior correspondent Neela Banerjee asserts, “Exxon was on the cutting edge

  • of science, they wanted to be on the cutting edge of science on climate change.” But

  • then everything changed: “And they ended up instead leading the denial and clouding

  • the public perception of science. I mean the change is amazing.” Exxon knew about climate

  • change since 1977 and has since worked hard to make sure no one does anything about it.

  • This company is one of the largest in the world, worth almost $400 billion, and since

  • its inception in 1911 with the breakup of Rockefeller's Standard Oil monopoly, has

  • been involved in countless nefarious operations harming the environmental and social ecosystems

  • of not only communities but whole countries. So today, we're going to dive deep into

  • the environmental and social consequences of this fossil fuel giant. Today, we take

  • on ExxonMobil.

  • First and foremost, ExxonMobil is a fossil fuel behemoth. It ranks fifth on the top 100

  • companies responsible for 71% of cumulative global greenhouse gas emissions since 1988.

  • Its operations span the globe with refineries dominating the Niger Delta and offshore exploration

  • reaching into Egyptian deepwater wells. It's not too far of a stretch to say that ExxonMobil

  • is one of the leading causes of climate change. The list of environmental wrongs created by

  • ExxonMobil's business is extensive. You can point to the 4167 spills ExxonMobil's

  • operations have caused since 2005. Or the over $20 billion spent on exploring and expanding

  • their fossil fuel infrastructure in 2018, locking in deepwater drilling operations in

  • Guyana and Mozambique for years to come. You can even look towards the 20-day methane leak

  • from an ExxonMobil natural gas subsidiary in 2018, that, according to the New York Times,

  • released more methane than the reported emissions of the oil and gas industries of

  • countries like Norway and France.” The list of environmental grievances is long, but let's

  • zoom in on one of the more ecological racked regions globally to understand ExxonMobil's

  • relationship with the environment: the Niger Delta. According to one 2018 study on Nigerian

  • ecosystems, Europe as a whole experienced 10 incidences of oil spills in 40 years, while

  • Nigeria experienced 9,343 incidences in just 10 years. The same study goes on to claim

  • that the Nigerian environment has experienced the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez oil spill

  • every year for the last 50 years. This vast amount of pollution has led to a loss of 5-10%

  • of the delta's mangrove population and a decline in fish stock decimating the livelihoods

  • of local fishers. And the largest oil company operating in the Delta is none other than

  • ExxonMobil, which, with its private army of over 2,500 security guards protects its polluting

  • interests with supreme aggression. Essentially, the world, and particularly marginalized and

  • indigenous communities, has become ExxonMobil's dumping ground. Environmental destruction,

  • climate change, and waterway pollution are just seen as unfortunate side effects of the

  • company's growth.

  • The full extent of ExxonMobil's impact can't be understood, however, until we address the

  • connection between their fossil fuel activities and the communities they operate within. So,

  • let's travel back to the United States for a minute. To the Charlton-Pollard section

  • of Beaumont, Texas where a majority black community lives with consequences of ExxonMobil

  • every day. A 2017 investigative report from The Intercept followed residents like Joseph

  • Gaines, as they struggled with the constant flaring of chemicals from the ExxonMobil refinery

  • down the block. The Intercept report revealed that the plant releases at least 135 toxic

  • chemicals, many of which are carcinogens, and the plant is regularly in noncompliance

  • with the Clean Air Act. People in Charlton-Pollard live with the constant smell of sulfur wafting

  • through the air, and residents have been diagnosed with cancer and heart problems. The air pollution

  • there is over 54 times higher than the national average. The population of Charlton-Pollard

  • has sought answers in form of a complaint to the EPA, but only after 17 years was it

  • answered, and it took the investigative reporting of The Intercept to push the EPA into action.

  • The EPA eventually fined ExxonMobil $2.5 million for polluting the communities around eight

  • of its Gulf Coast refineries, with the added requirement of spending $300 million to fit

  • their refineries with pollution control systems. While this is a victory, it's too little,

  • too late. This slow action is a symptom of ExxonMobil's and other fossil fuel interests'

  • defanging of Texas enforcement agencies. In 2016, for example, the state punished fewer

  • than 1 percent of illegal pollution releases.

  • But ExxonMobil's strategy of casting its negative externalities onto low-income communities

  • and communities of color is not just limited to the local scale, it happens globally as

  • well. If we go back to the Niger Delta, the consequences of big oil companies like ExxonMobil

  • have manifested in nearly double the infant mortality rate near oil spills as well as

  • a complex web of illegal refineries and armed conflicts surrounding pipeline and fossil

  • fuel operations. One community leader interviewed by The Guardian laments, "Oil companies do

  • not value our life; they want us to all die. In the past two years, we have experienced

  • 10 oil spills and fishermen can no longer sustain their families. It is not tolerable."

  • Nearby, ExxonMobil, with the help of the World Bank, tore a sharp line through the land of

  • Cameroon's Bakola indigenous peoples in order to construct the Chad-Cameroon Pipeline.

  • They did this despite the knowledge of an impact report detailing the damage the pipeline

  • would cause to the Bakola people. According to a World Bank environmental specialist,

  • The pipeline didn't need to go through their area. It could have followed the road

  • on the outsideBut, ExxonMobil didn't relocate the pipeline. They put it directly through

  • Bakola lands, doing much environmental damage in the process.”

  • Farther down the coast, one 2013 study connects the prevalence of malaria in Equatorial Guinea

  • with its rapid transition into a petro-state spearheaded by ExxonMobil. When the study

  • was published most of the population had yet to see the substantial royalties from ExxonMobil's

  • oil operations. 60% of the 650,000 citizens at the time lived on less than $1 per day.

  • And despite the wealth pouring out of Exxon's oil fields, the government was slow to act

  • on malaria aid as well. There were an estimated 193,000 cases of malaria in 2006. The study

  • points towards ExxonMobil's illicit backing of the country's dictator and other leaders

  • as a part of the reason why malaria continued to be a major problem within the country.

  • The author asserts that therapid influx of wealth in one sector can lead to... depression

  • of other economic sectors, general inflation, potential for conflict, and the encouragement

  • of weak or corrupt management.” Essentially, the paper argues that ExxonMobil was propping

  • up a failing government with little desire to address the malaria epidemic all in order

  • to maintain control of its lucrative oil assets. This exploitation of the resources of oil-rich

  • countries at the hands of corporations like Exxon has become such a pervasive global issue

  • it's been deemed theresource cursein academic circles, as in, to have more resources,

  • which should create economic power for a poor country, actually leads to worse economic

  • outcomes for that country. According to one study, between 1970-1993, “resource-poor

  • countries without petroleum, grew four times more rapidly than resource-rich countries

  • with petroleum, despite the fact that they had half the savings.” The study goes on

  • to say thatThe World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have both confirmed that

  • the greater a country's dependence on oil and mineral resources, the worse its growth

  • performance.” Essentially, as ExxonMobil extracts fossil fuels from countries around

  • the world, it is also exploiting and destabilizing their economies. A leading World Bank official

  • stated thatExxon people are the least responsible organization I ever dealt with.

  • They couldn't give a damn about the environment, such as prudent routing of pipeline[s], vulnerable

  • ethnic minorities and their life-support systems, double-hulling, spill response plans, and

  • greenhouse gas emissions. Getting them to consider such prudentiary measures is like

  • getting blood from a stone.”

  • ExxonMobil then tries to cover up the myriad of environmental and social costs of their

  • fossil fuel dealings with a deluge of PR and marketing ploys, all in an attempt to avoid

  • the punishments and regulations surrounding the global costs of fossil fuels. In the three

  • years following the Paris Agreement ExxonMobil, alongside four of the other largest publicly

  • traded oil and gas companies, spent $1 billion of shareholder funds on misleading climate-related

  • branding and lobbying. They initially sewed doubt in the climate science community to

  • slow down regulation and public action, but as the mounting evidence proved that tactic

  • ineffective, ExxonMobil has since taken other avenues. According to InfluenceMap, ExxonMobil

  • and other fossil fuel companies are using a combination of positive messaging combined

  • with a system of negative lobbying to make sure no legislation passes. This looks like

  • $2 million spent on social media ads before the 2018 midterm election branding the oil

  • and gas industry as a jobs generator building a brighter future. It also means that ExxonMobil

  • spent over $9 million in direct lobbying money in 2019 and has contributed over $900,000

  • to campaigns in the U.S. during the 2020 election cycle. The idea is, as one New Yorker piece

  • reports, to identify and back key votes in Congress that will block all progress made

  • on fossil fuel regulation. Essentially, ExxonMobil has a vested interest in clouding the science

  • and policy surrounding climate change and preventing any meaningful environmental bill

  • from passing through Congress, because at the end of the day, regulation means a dip

  • in their profits. But unlike many other smaller companies, ExxonMobil has the power and money

  • to protect their interests. As the New Yorker article puts it, “[ExxonMobil] functions

  • as a corporate state within the American stateconstructing its own foreign, economic, and human-rights

  • policies.”

  • ExxonMobil is the epitome of concentrated power in the private sphere. Together with

  • other large multinational oil companies, it is responsible for the firmly entrenched fossil

  • fuel infrastructure that seems ingrained in every facet of our lives. So when we are told

  • that climate change is the individual's fault and that we must all stop driving cars

  • and flying, we have to think critically. ExxonMobil is a perfect example of why this isn't true.

  • It holds sway over a vast amount of oil and gas production, and in 1977 they knew that

  • climate change was coming and it was going to be drastic. ExxonMobil had the opportunity

  • to make great changes, to transition the world towards a path of renewable energy. They had

  • the chance to make a massive impact on the environment for the good not just on a local

  • scale but on a global one. But they didn't. Instead, they covered it up and continued

  • pushing the world down the path of no return.

  • In order to create and build an extensive fossil fuel free infrastructure we'll need

  • scientists, mathematicians, and engineers--problem solvers who know the consequences of a world

  • with climate change and are invested in preventing it. Luckily, Brilliant is already teaching

  • this next generation of problem solvers through an amazing selection of online courses that

  • use interactive puzzles to hone critical, mathematical, and scientific thinking skills.

  • Brilliant is a course-based website that lets you explore the realms of math and science

  • through storytelling, interactive explorations, and daily quizzes. Which is exactly what you'll

  • get when you dive into their new Calculus in a Nutshell course. Using visual and physical

  • intuition to present the major pillars of calculus, Brilliant guides you through the

  • intricacies of calculus: an essential tool for aspiring ecologists and urban planners

  • alike. Ultimately, if you're like me and are curious about how the world works or just

  • want to build your problem-solving skills, then I'd highly recommend getting Brilliant

  • Premium to learn something new every day.

  • So, if you want to start developing your analytical abilities, go to brilliant dot org slash OCC,

  • or click the link in the description, and sign up for free. As a bonus, the first 200

  • people that go to that link will get 20% off their annual premium membership.

  • Hey Everyone! Charlie here. If you're interested in supporting the videos I make for this channel,

  • there are two things you can do. First, consider backing me on Patreon. Even a dollar a month