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Hot air? New York Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city is suing five huge oil companies for damages allegedly related to climate change  (PANCHO S  — CC BY-SA 2.0)

The art and antiques collection of the late David Rockefeller, grandson of the great oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, was auctioned at Christies New York last month, enthralling the public and raising more than $830 million for various charities. The sale took place after the rather more momentous decision by the Rockefeller family to sell off their remaining shares in fossil fuel companies. At the time the Rockefeller Family Fund (one of six Rockefeller philanthropic institutions, all of which have followed suit) singled out Exxon Mobil for its “morally reprehensible conduct”: the 21st-century Rockefellers claimed that the world’s largest oil company had not just ignored the evidence of man-made climate change but had actively conspired to obscure the evidence.

Exxon Mobil is the most notable of the great oil companies that provided the bulk of the Rockefeller fortune. It was formed from the merger 20 years ago of Standard Oil New Jersey (Exxon, or Esso) and Standard Oil New York (Mobil), the two most powerful legacy companies to emerge from the breakup of Rockefeller’s original Standard Oil Trust in 1913. Its leaders had certainly resisted the pressure felt by all oil companies to acknowledge the claims of climate scientists. Unlike other oil companies, they did not pay lip service to environmentalism, and continued  to run their affairs much as before. In public, Exxon Mobil championed climate scepticism. But as a company it reoriented its industrial activities away from oil and towards natural gas, which omits much less CO2 than coal or oil. Its response to the Rockefeller divestment was laconic and pugnacious: “It’s not surprising that they’re divesting from the company since they’re already funding a conspiracy against us.”

Conspiracy is a strong word, but across the US in particular activists are looking for ways to sue oil and coal companies. They see the oil industry denying scientific evidence of climate change in the same way that big tobacco denied the inks between smoking and cancer.

In January, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city was suing the world’s five largest publicly-traded oil companies — BP, Shell, Chevron, Conoco Phillips and Exxon Mobil — for damages related to climate change and the supposed threat to New York. He said:

“We are seeking billions of dollars in damages to protect us against extreme weather and rising seas and to fortify New York City against future storms. For decades big oil ravaged the environment and big oil copied big tobacco. They used a classic cynical playbook. They denied and denied and denied that their product was lethal. Meanwhile they spent a lot of time hooking society on that lethal product, and think about how cynical and dangerous that is knowing the damage that was being caused, having all the evidence in the world, and yet using all the tools at their disposal to deepen the crisis for their own profit.”
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June 29th, 2018
11:06 AM
Excellent informed points. Energy does not equal tobacco. It is essential to life and to modern life. Mr. Rockefeller would agree to divesting only after his billions were safe and secure. That is in fact the background of the decision of his pious descendants

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