ExxonMobil lobbyist caught on camera saying company's support for carbon tax is a PR stunt

ExxonMobil sign.
(Image credit: Eric Piermont/AFP via Getty Images)

A senior lobbyist for ExxonMobil told an undercover reporter that the oil company's support for a carbon tax is nothing more than a public relations stunt meant to slow down actual regulations aimed at curbing climate change.

During a Zoom meeting in May, Keith McCoy, Exxon's senior director of federal relations, told the reporter from Greenpeace's investigative journalism outlet Unearthed that the company "aggressively" fought against climate science and funded shadow groups to deny global warming. Exxon's backing of a carbon tax is "an advocacy tool," he said, and Republican lawmakers who are against taxes won't ever let it happen.

"Nobody is going to propose a tax on all Americans, and the cynical side of me says, yeah, we kind of know that — but it gives us a talking point that we can say, well, what is ExxonMobil for?" McCoy said. "Well, we're for a carbon tax." He downplayed the company fighting against climate science and joining shadow groups, saying, "there's nothing illegal about that. We were looking out for our investments, we were looking out for shareholders."

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The Unearthed reporter approached McCoy and Dan Easley, Exxon's former White House lobbyist who left at the end of the Trump administration, posing as a recruitment consultant, The Guardian reports. Video of the interview was posted online Wednesday, and also featured Easley saying there were concerns over President Biden ending the corporate tax cuts enacted under former President Donald Trump, saying these are "probably worth billions to Exxon."

Exxon CEO Darren Woods said in a statement that the company condemned the remarks made by McCoy and Easley, adding, "We were shocked by these interviews and stand by our commitments to working on finding solutions to climate change." McCoy posted on LinkedIn that he is "deeply embarrassed by my comments and that I allowed myself to fall for Greenpeace's deception. My statements clearly do not represent ExxonMobil's positions on important public policy issues."

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