New York’s Exxon climate probe focuses on company's predictions

New York’s Exxon climate probe focuses on company's predictions
© Getty

New York’s attorney general said his climate change investigation of Exxon Mobil Corp. is focusing on recent predictions the company has made about global warming and its operations.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) told the New York Times in a Friday report that while activists have largely focused their ire against Exxon on what it knew about climate change dating back to the 1970s, his efforts are not centered on events that far in the past.

ADVERTISEMENT

He said his investigation, which became public last year, is mainly about potential fraud by Exxon perpetrated upon shareholders or the public.

He pointed, as an example, to a 2014 report to investors, in which Exxon said global climate policies would not likely force the company to abandon oil and natural gas reserves, or “stranded assets,” a prediction with which many scientists disagree, citing the need to dramatically cut back on fossil fuel production and use.

“If, collectively, the fossil fuel companies are overstating their assets by trillions of dollars, that’s a big deal,” Schneiderman told the Times.

If Exxon internally believed that it would have significant stranded assets, “there may be massive securities fraud here,” he said.

Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers dismissed Schneiderman’s comments, telling the Times that while predictions could be wrong, they aren’t necessarily fraudulent.

Schneiderman also pushed back against allegations that he is trying to put climate change skeptics in jail.

“This is an investigation,” he said told the Times. “It is a civil fraud case. No one is being prosecuted — we’re not out to silence dissenting views.”

Environmentalists hoping to punish Exxon for its climate stance have consistently cited evidence that it knew decades ago that fossil fuels would cause significant global warming but instead chose to sow doubt publicly about the science.

Exxon has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying its research throughout the years on climate has consistently aligned with the scientific consensus. The company now believes that fossil fuels are the main cause of climate change and endorses a carbon tax policy as well.