Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Out of Balance: ExxonMobil's Impact on Climate Change


The short feature (available from Netflix on DVD) Out of Balance: ExxonMobil’s Impact on Climate Change (2007, Cinequest), dir. Tom Jackson, 65 min, Cinequest, is a documentary asserting ExxonMobil’s precarious place in the global warming debate.

To jump to the end, there are strident “left wing” demands not to buy ExxonMobol products, not to work for them, not to own their stock. Well, I’ve owned Exxon since 1975 and it has multiplied many times over, so I am one of the evil ones, I guess. I’ve actually practiced that kind of thinking in other areas, maintaining I should not work for DOD even as a civilian as long as there is a military ban.

The documentary presents the history of the company, with the Esso brand, and how Standard Oil of New Jersey was formed after a spinoff. The company hired trademark experts to develop the Exxon brand, and then merged with Mobil in 1999 to form the world’s largest company. The documentary accuses its predecessor of doing business with the Nazis as late as 1944.

The film shows some striking footage of the cleanup in Alaska after the Exxon-Valdez oil spill in 1989. The crew is accused of “steaming” beach life in place, and of putting on a show to look good, and of waddling out of punitive damages. The awarded damages reportedly amounted to a little over $1000 per resident.

The movie presented former CEO Lee Raymond, current CEO Rex Tillerson, and Wall Street analyst Judy Goodrifge, who offered up the Enron example (at one time, “Enron” sounded too much like “Exxon”) as that of an empire whose value can vanish into nothingness. (How about Bear Stearnes?)

The film makes the point that the "corporation," as a legal person, allows individuals running it to escape responsibility for their actions. (Actually, that's not true: "officers" of companies are personally responsible.) This reminds one of the 2004 film from Zeitgeist, "The Corporation").

The film accuses ExxonMobil of bemusing the global warming debate with “junk science” to cause it to be questioned. It’s true that if you work for an enterprise in a publicly visible capacity (as an executive or spokesperson) then you can’t be personally honest in public about issues like this, because of conflict of interest. I’ve talked about that a lot on my other blogs.

Visitors can read ExxonMobil’s corporate citizenship statement here.

I didn't see this film listed in the DC Environmental Film Festival, although it obviously would have fit into it.

The documentary film from UFOTV / MadCow "Conspiracy: The Secret History: The Big Fix 2000" (2003, 56 min) about the conflict of interest problems in the voting technology industry (particularly Sequoia Pacific), especially as it affected the 2000 presidential election (I remember driving to an election night supper by the Libertarian Party of Minnesota, being stopped at a light in the snow, and hearing the announcement over the car radio that Gore's "win" in Florida was being taken back). Toward the end of the film, there is a suggesting that Mobil (before the merger with Exxon) became improperly involved in the election "business."

Visitors may want to visit a review by me of a film on Shell that I got in the mail free, last July, here.

1 comment:

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