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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods' public apology for two lobbyists' unfiltered comments is unlikely to put the controversy behind the oil giant, and the revelations may also intensify the glare on the wider industry over climate change.

Driving the news: A government affairs official compared lobbying to catching lawmakers like fish and acknowledged that the company's carbon tax support is mainly for show, in a video captured by a Greenpeace activist posing as a corporate recruiter.

Those and other comments from a former lobbyist prompted Woods to apologize while saying the remarks don't reflect Exxon's positions.

Catch up fast: The official, Keith McCoy, also addresses the company's history of funding organizations that work to portray climate science as unsettled.

  • "Did we aggressively fight against some of the science? Yes. Did we hide our science? Absolutely not," McCoy said. "Did we join some of these shadow groups to work against some of the early efforts? Yes, that’s true."
  • We've got much more here.

Why it matters: The comments to Greenpeace are adding to existing pressure over Exxon's positions and efforts on climate change.

  • Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who is already investigating the oil industry via a House panel he chairs, told E&E News ($) that the revelations add "fuel to the fire."
  • He told the outlet he's weighing subpoenas of top executives. In a separate public statement yesterday, Khanna's office noted he was already planning a hearing this fall on "climate disinformation."

Exxon's posture is already in the spotlight after activist investors surprisingly succeeded in winning shareholder backing for three new board members in May, partially based on concerns that Exxon is not well positioned on climate.

Yes, but: Woods, in his statement, said the company stands by "their commitments to working on finding solutions to climate change."

  • Exxon has been increasing its resources devoted to areas like carbon capture and storage, though they remain a very small share of its spending.
  • "We believe ExxonMobil’s commitment to addressing climate change is genuine," said Alex Flint, head of the Alliance for Market Solutions, a pro-carbon tax group that's supported by Exxon.

Go deeper

Exxon lobbyists' unfiltered climate remarks caught on video by Greenpeace

Gas pumps sit empty at an Exxon gas station in Charlotte, North Carolina on May 12, 2021. (LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images)

An Exxon government affairs official compared lobbying to catching lawmakers like fish and acknowledged that the company's carbon tax support is mainly for show, unlikely to produce results in a video captured by a Greenpeace UK activist posing as a corporate recruiter.

Why it matters: The comments Greenpeace published Wednesday — while offered under false pretenses — provide an unfiltered look at two Exxon lobbyists' views. They also prompted a remarkable public apology from Exxon CEO Darren Woods, who insisted they don't reflect Exxon's positions.

Jul 1, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Wall Street vet leaving Kerry's climate team

Mark Gallogly (right) sits with former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at the White House in November 2009. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Mark Gallogly, a private-equity titan who's been working for John Kerry to line up private-sector financing to combat climate change and serve as a liaison to the business community, is leaving the administration, Axios has learned.

The big picture: Gallogly is departing almost as quietly as he joined, with one difference: Kerry, President Biden's special envoy for climate, is publicly acknowledging his role — and his contributions.

Bezos beats Branson in space billionaires' battle for attention

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Imtiyaz Shaikh (Anadolu Agency), Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Jeff Bezos' flight into space generated more interest from the public than Richard Branson's, and both billionaires overshadowed their respective space companies.

Why it matters: Data shows an outsized public interest in the personalities at the center of the space trips, compared to the companies behind them — which could reinforce public suspicion that the ventures were partly vanity plays.