For several years now, we’ve been making the case that the clean energy industry has to dramatically scale its advocacy investment to meet an aggressive disinformation campaign trained against it by the fossil lobby. We’ve found increasing receptiveness to that message, but we still run into people who think we’ve got tin foil on our heads. The refrain goes something like this: “Who’d want to do such a thing to wind, solar and geothermal power?”
Well, look no further than ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. He just effectively admitted his massive company -- the most profitable on Earth -- has a strong financial interest in blocking clean energy scaling. According to Tillerson, his company -- which has one of the worst reputations in America -- has a lot of the farm bet on fracking-driven natural gas. The company is in the electricity business like it’s never been before, and this means it needs electrons generated from burning fracked gas in order to recoup that investment.
As CNNMoney reports:
Tillerson is betting much of his company’s future growth -- and a good portion of his legacy -- on the promise of fracking. [...] To deliver the future returns that its shareholders expect, Exxon needs the XTO purchase -- which so far hasn’t lived up to its promise because of falling natural-gas prices -- to pay off big time.
Bottom line? Tillerson can’t make back his money if clean energy scales.
Set aside the arrogance of the suckers-game proposition Tillerson put in the article: “Prove to me that I need to prove my dirty practices aren’t dirty.” The fact is that Tillerson and other fracking backers are whistling past the graveyard of the faulty promise: The industry that brought you the Exxon Valdez and the BP Deep Water Horizon Disaster can pierce, inject below and dump over our aquifers a toxic cocktail of chemicals…and never mess up.
Cleantech executives and investors who still think that simple business execution alone will get us to scale should look at ExxonMobil’s storied, extensive use of influence peddling ($4.2 M in reported lobbying in Q1 alone), disinformation and front groups to further its interests.
In order to scale clean energy to where it can and should be, you’re going to need good business execution and a much greater investment in public positioning and advocacy. We’re on the playing field with guys who hit pretty hard. We’re threatening their profits. Don’t expect them to sit there and leave you alone.
Mike Casey is the founder and president of Tigercomm, a leading cleantech PR firm with offices in Washington, San Francisco and Los Angeles.