“Oil, an all-powerful lobby”, on Arte: in search of lost time

The investigation begins with a few typed pages

“Oil, an all-powerful lobby”, on Arte: in search of lost time

The investigation begins with a few typed pages. On March 26, 1979, the oil company Exxon produced a small note full of big ambitions. The objective of this mission letter? Launch scientific research to examine the “probability of a global greenhouse effect.”

A team of scientists sets up shop in the multinational's premises, runs computers, and boards tankers to measure the chemical evolution of the oceans. “Our research interested the senior people at Exxon, they wanted to know,” recalls Edward Garvey, one of the engineers employed by the company at the time.

The conclusion of the study is clear: “concentration of CO2”, “rising temperatures”, “rising seas”, “modification of the biosphere”… All the words that have haunted scientific studies for half a century are already there. The American firm has given itself the means to know: its business is harmful to the planet. It could invest in renewable energies and prepare for the future, it will do its best to twist the geophysical evidence.

Researchers whose mission is to sow doubt

The documentary Oil, an Almighty Lobby, describes in two parts – Denial and Doubt – the thousand strategies used by the oil lobby to hinder the fight against global warming. Gathered within lobbies such as the very powerful American Petroleum Institute, Exxon, Koch Industries or new players, such as Chesapeake Energy, specialist in shale gas extraction, are sometimes competitors, but unite against science. By using the same methods: mobilizing researchers whose mission is to sow doubt; finance foundations with sweet names, Americans for Prosperity or Clean Skies; target elected politicians in states very dependent on this industry, such as Oklahoma…

The companies will precipitate the failure of the British Thermal Unit tax of Bill Clinton and his vice-president, Al Gore, and the stagnation of Barack Obama's environmental policy. At the time of filming, in 2020, as climate change continues to increase, the situation is bitter. Some complicit scientists regret it. Officials refuse to be interviewed. Meanwhile, companies promise to develop carbon capture technology and climate skepticism continues to flourish.

“We will not solve the climate crisis if we do not solve the disinformation crisis,” warns Ro Khanna, elected Democrat from California, who in 2021 auditioned the bosses of oil companies in the House of Representatives. “We lost ten years, we waited too long,” sighs Tony Ingraffea, professor at Cornell University, one of the designers of hydraulic fracturing. Climate change means looking at my grandchildren in the eyes and wondering what hell they are going to live in. »