Big Oil will be the lube in Trump and Putin’s bromance

It’s no secret at this point that Russia’s president Vladimir Putin wanted Donald Trump to win the election, damn the consequences for the American people. Some of Putin’s reasons even seemed fair; Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, seemed intent on starting a war with his federation by establishing a no-fly zone in Syria.

Now it seems that was all tangential to the real prize: Billions of dollars in oil deals that will soon be able to go through, thanks to Trump’s newly appointed Secretary of State, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. Together, the dream team of Putin, Trump and Tillerson will roll back progress on climate change about as far as it can go. The extent of the damage will be measured not in years, environmentalist Bill McKibben says, but in geologic time.

Exxon Mobil’s history with climate change denial goes back decades. According to a report from Climate Change News (which sounds like a fake news site but has actually won a Pulitzer), the company (then just Exxon) began conducting climate change research in the 1960s and knew as early as 1977 that greenhouse gases produced by fossil fuels posed a danger to the environment. Rather than transition to clean energy, the company pivoted to a position of denial, lobbying against government regulations and funding bad science meant to cast doubt on the role played by fossil fuels in climate change.

As someone who’s been with the company since 1975 and held senior positions there since 1988, Tillerson has been a party to most of this. He opposes sanctions against Russia on the grounds that they don’t work (?!). While he now acknowledges that climate change is real, Tillerson continues to fight regulations and pretends like the jury is still out on what, exactly, should be done to fix the problem. Go to page 40 of this report to read extremely cagey things he said about it during a congressional hearing.

Tillerson’s history with Russia goes back to the 1980s. In 2013, Putin awarded him the Order of Friendship for engineering a deal worth $300 billion to begin drilling in the Arctic. Unfortunately for these two, the deal was halted in 2014 by sanctions imposed by the Obama administration after Russia invaded Crimea. If the sanctions on Russia are lifted, an estimated $500 billion in oil drilling deals with Exxon Mobil will be allowed to proceed.

As U.S. Secretary of State, Tillerson would be in an ideal position to lift these sanctions, never mind the fact that most of his fortune exists in the form of Exxon Mobil stock, posing a huge conflict of interests. Together with Putin, Trump, and other appointees like climate change skeptic Myron Ebell, Tillerson could very well speed the warming of the earth to a significant degree.

Given that we are already seeing the first climate change refugees right here in the U.S., this is not a risk we can afford to take. Fortunately, only three GOP Senators need to break ranks with their party to block Tillerson’s appointment, and Marco Rubio, John McCain and Lindsey Graham have all expressed doubts about him. Besides being awfully close with Putin, Tillerson has zero government experience.

[Photo: Getty]