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ExxonMobil: Facing a Boycott

by Evan Woodward

The only remaining major oil firm disputing the need for alternative energy
ExxonMobil, one of the biggest corporations on the planet, is now facing a boycott spearheaded by activist groups protesting the company's policies at home and abroad.

The boycott was launched by PressurePoint, a grassroots organization looking to "take real action on climate change and corporate influence," according to Chris Doran, campaigns director for the group. "The U.S. government's climate change policy is the ExxonMobil policy," Doran says. "What sort of democracy do we have when one company can buy off our political process for its own gains?"

ExxonMobil is a charter member of the Global Climate Coalition, an influential industry lobbying group which maintains that the regulations to reduce greenhouse emissions drawn up under the Kyoto agreement of 1997 are neither economically viable nor scientifically sound.

According to the American Chemical Society, ExxonMobil is the only remaining major oil firm that disputes the need to seek out energy alternatives, while other companies -- such as British Petroleum, Shell and Enron -- have all agreed to do so. Exxon maintains the stance that there are no readily available alternatives to fossil fuels on the horizon.

Activists taking part in the boycott against ExxonMobil accuse the firm of blatant disregard for the rights of ecosystems. Carwil James, oil campaign coordinator for Project Underground, contends that "ExxonMobil often leads the charge in the oil industry's effort to lower environmental protections and to open new ecosystems and homelands to oil drilling." In 1997, James reports, ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond "warned developing countries to lower environmental standards or risk losing foreign investment."

James urged that ExxonMobil be held accountable for those and many other transgressions, such as a 1998 oil spill that affected "half a million people" in Nigeria and "the billion dollars Mobil gave Russian and Kazakh partners with no apparent business purpose in 1999."

Ross Gelbspan, a journalist who has investigated ExxonMobil's moves on the public relations front, says that the firm has poured large amounts of money into funding the conservative Cato Institute's "Environmental and Natural Resources" program, the Hoover Institution, and numerous other groups seeking to debunk global warming science. Gelbspan comments that the oil company's "funding of the most vocal 'greenhouse skeptics' goes far beyond normal spin, given the robust nature of the science and the unavoidable evidence of what is happening to the climate."

In addition to the complaints against ExxonMobil's environmental record, critics are questioning the corporation's role in international political disputes, particularly its involvement in the war-torn Aceh region of Indonesia. According to Kurt Biddle, Washington coordinator for the Indonesia Human Rights Network, Mobil has been reimbursing military forces in Aceh with weaponry, equipment and housing in exchange for the maintenance of a security perimeter around an oil field there.

For the past decade, says Biddle, the Indonesian military has been waging a torture campaign against Acehnese citizens -- with the support of Mobil's direct allocation of funds: "After the fall of Suharto in 1998, numerous mass graves were discovered. It is believed that Mobil supplied the equipment to build these graves."

Biddle and other activists are calling for ExxonMobil to pull out of Aceh and other regions where it has abetted serious human rights abuses. The firm also has controversial holdings in Nigeria and Chad. According to Steve Kretzmann, policy analyst with the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, "whether you're talking about global warming or human rights violations, ExxonMobil is at the top of the list of offenders." He added: "ExxonMobil should suspend operations in these areas immediately."

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Albion Monitor July 23, 2001 (

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