“Nobody is going to propose a tax on all Americans. The cynical side of me says we kind of know that. But it gives us a talking point,” McCoy said in the video. “We can say, ‘What is ExxonMobil for? We’re for a carbon tax.'”
The Exxon lobbyist added that a carbon tax “isn’t going to happen” because it would take political courage. “That doesn’t exist in politics. It just doesn’t,” he said.
Exxon condemns statements in video
The report from Channel 4 did not allege Exxon or its lobbyists did anything illegal. After all, plenty of major corporations use campaign donations to shape the laws in their favor.
“We condemn the statements and are deeply apologetic for them, including comments regarding interactions with elected officials,” Woods said in a statement. “They are entirely inconsistent with the way we expect our people to conduct themselves. We were shocked by these interviews and stand by our commitments to working on finding solutions to climate change.”
Woods, who became CEO in 2017 after Rex Tillerson stepped down from the helm of Exxon to become President Donald Trump’s secretary of state, also said the individuals in the footage “were never involved” in developing the company’s positions on the issues discussed.
‘He is the kingmaker’
Yet during the video McCoy suggested he’s very much involved in Exxon’s efforts to influence key lawmakers. The Exxon lobbyist compared the influence campaign to fishing, where the company tries to “kind of reel them in.”
“Because they’re a captive audience. They know they need you and I need them,” McCoy said.
McCoy identified 11 US senators he says are “crucial” to Exxon, singling out Senator Joe Manchin, the moderate Democrat from West Virginia, as particularly important.
“I talk to his office every week. He is the kingmaker,” McCoy said, adding that the Democrat is “not shy” about staking his claim early and changing the debate.
Manchin’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Exxon lobbyist is ‘deeply embarrassed’
“I am deeply embarrassed by my comments and that I allowed myself to fall for Greenpeace’s deception,” McCoy said. “My statements clearly do not represent ExxonMobil’s positions on important public policy issues. While some of my comments were taken out of context, there is no excuse for what I said or how I said it.”
Asked if McCoy is still employed by Exxon, an Exxon spokesperson declined to comment, adding: “It is a private personnel matter.”
Climate activists used the undercover footage to pressure Congress and the White House to move swiftly to address the climate crisis by enacting a bolder infrastructure package than the bipartisan agreement reached last week.
“Companies like Exxon spent decades sowing doubt about the science of climate change. Now it seems their lobbyists worked to deter climate solutions from being included in a potentially planet-saving infrastructure package,” Janet Redman, climate campaign director Janet Redman at Greenpeace USA, said in a statement on Thursday.
Another setback for Exxon
Lindsay Meiman, US communications manager at climate group 350.org, said in a statement that the Exxon footage shows how “Exxon’s climate lies have spanned from outright denial to puppeteering our government and economy.”
The tapes are the latest blow to Exxon as pressure mounts on Washington and Wall Street to address the climate crisis.