Oil industry pushes back against Exxon climate accusations

Oil industry pushes back against Exxon climate accusations
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The oil industry is coming to defense of Exxon Mobil Corp. and pushing back against accusations that the company lied to the public and shareholders about climate change.

In its most forceful response yet, the industry-funded Energy In Depth project is accusing the news organizations behind the allegations of being funded by fossil fuel opponents and cherry-picking information to back their causes.

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The Thursday attack from the oil industry is the latest pushback against reports published in InsideClimate News (ICN) and the Los Angeles Times. The outlets reported last year that Exxon knew about the risks of climate change and its connection to oil and natural gas consumption but buried the findings and tried to sow doubt about climate change to fight proposed policies that could hurt their business.

The reports have received international attention, spurring the social media hashtag #ExxonKnew. The attorneys general of New York and California have also launched formal investigations into whether Exxon’s actions violated the law.

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“In truth, the articles produced by ICN are deeply flawed,” Energy In Depth writes in its new blog post, saying that “the writers cherry-picked some facts, and ignored others, to produce a completely distorted view of the company’s work on climate change.”

It said that the “failings clearly violate basic journalistic standards” and mocked ICN for not receiving the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.

ICN is a non-profit organization that has received funding from groups seen by the oil industry as opponents. The Los Angeles Times reports were produced by the Columbia Journalism School.

Energy In Depth is also releasing a video outlining three instances in which it said ICN “misled readers,” adding that “a closer look at the facts and the full, unedited source documents tells a very different story” than what was reported.

While ICN did not receive the Goldsmith Prize, it did get the Scripps Howard Award for environmental journalism.

“When agenda-driven articles are publicly challenged, but their authors are rewarded with cash prizes anyway, it’s easy to see why the public’s trust in the news media has fallen to historic lows,” the oil industry group said.

Exxon has pushed back on the reports itself repeatedly, saying, “to suggest that we had reached definitive conclusions, decades before the world’s experts and while climate science was in an early stage of development, is not credible.”

The news organizations, meanwhile, have defended their work. Steve Coll, dean of the Columbia Journalism School, told an Exxon spokesman that his accusations against the Los Angeles Times reports are unfounded.

“I have concluded that your allegations are unsupported by evidence,” he wrote last year.

“More than that, I have been troubled to discover that you have made serious allegations of professional misconduct in your letter against members of the project team even though you or your media relations colleagues possess email records showing that your allegations are false.”