Mr. Tillerson goes to Washington

This week, we watched CSPAN in disbelief, viewing something we never thought we’d see: Rex “T-Rex” Tillerson, recent CEO of global oil giant ExxonMobil, speaking in front of senators, with the words “Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State Nominee” written on the screen.

It felt like something that would better fit a sci-fi thriller. Or a horror film. Or the prologue to the Hunger Games. But it is real life, and it happened.

Few have been a greater threat to a safe climate future than T-Rex, who held an executive role at Exxon during one of the largest misinformation campaigns in history — which confused the public and politicians for decades — to protect the profits of his company at the expense of all of humanity.

That’s what a supervillain does. And you know what is a bad idea? Giving a supervillain the highest diplomatic post in the world.

Now is the moment that we still get to grill T-Rex publically about climate. Below you’ll find a list of climate-related questions thrown at the Rex, along with his answers and how he ducked, dodged and weaved. It’s a treat to see a former oil CEO get asked direct questions; it’s infuriating to see him do anything but give a straight answer.

WHAT DOES THE T-REX SAY?

…on human-caused climate change

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) asked if T-Rex believes that climate change is human caused.

  • T-Rex answered, “The increase in the greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are having an effect. Our ability to predict that effect is very limited.”

…on Exxon knowing

(Hint: investigative journalists exposed that Exxon’s own research confirmed fossil fuels’ role in global warming decades ago. Then, without revealing all that it had learned, Exxon worked at the forefront of climate denial, manufacturing doubt about the scientific consensus that its own scientists had confirmed.)

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) grilled T-Rex on whether the conclusions from the ExxonMobil investigation — that the company had a history of promoting and funding climate denial despite its internal awareness of the existence of human-caused climate change — was true or false.

  • T-Rex said,“Since I’m no longer with ExxonMobil, I can’t speak on their behalf. The question would have to be put to ExxonMobil.”
  • Kaine pressed, “Do you lack the knowledge or are you refusing to answer?”
  • T-Rex said, “A little of both.”

…on climate science

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) asked if T-Rex thinks we should still act on climate.

  • T-Rex said, “I think what I said is the fact that we cannot predict with precision and certainly all the models that we discussed, none of them agree, doesn’t mean we should do nothing.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) asked, “Do you agree with [the] viewpoint that, essentially, that the odds of dramatic events occurring, whether it’s more forest fires or more hurricanes with more power, is a rational observation from the scientific literature [on climate change]?”

  • T-Rex said, “There’s some literature out there that suggests that. There’s other literature that says it’s inconclusive.”
  • Note: 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is happening and that humans contribute.

…on Paris

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) asked, “Do you agree the United States should continue in international leadership on climate change issues with the international community?”

  • T-Rex says, “I think it is important that the United States maintain its seat at the table on conversations around how to address threats of climate change, which do require a global response. No one country will solve this alone.”

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) asked, “Do you personally believe the overall interest of the United States are better served by staying in the Paris agreement? If so, why? And if not, why not?”

  • T-Rex said, “Having a seat at the table to address this global issue is important.”

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) asked straight-up if we’d stay in the Paris agreement.

  • T-Rex said he and Trump would review all global agreements, and that he wouldn’t be shy about sharing his opinion with the President-elect.

…on a climate witch hunt

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) asked, “Do you plan or would you support any efforts to persecute, sideline or otherwise retaliate against the career state department employees who have worked on climate change in the past?”

  • T-Rex said, “No, sir, that would be a pretty unhelpful way to get started.”

…on a carbon tax

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) reminded T-Rex that he previously publicly supported a carbon tax.

  • T-Rex said, “When it comes to tax policy, that is up to other agencies to conduct. My role at state is to only deal with the issues that are relevant to treaties or international accords…”

…on climate change as a national security threat

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) asked if T-Rex saw climate as a national security threat.

  • T-Rex said, “I don’t see it as the eminent national security threat that perhaps others do.”
  • Merkley went on to give examples of how climate is a national security threat.
  • T-Rex said: “The facts on the ground are indisputable in terms of what’s happening with drought, disease, insect populations, all the things you cite. The science behind the clear connection is not conclusive and there are many reports out there that we are unable yet to connect specific events to climate change alone.”

…on fossil fuel subsidies

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D — N.H.) asked, “At this time when many of our oil companies, particularly large oil companies like Exxon, are reaping very good profits, do we really need to continue [fossil fuel] subsidies? And second, if confirmed, how would you as Secretary of State help to fulfill our international commitment to phase out those fossil fuel subsidies?”

  • T-Rex said, “I’m not aware of anything the fossil fuel industry gets that I would characterize as a subsidy. Rather it’s simply the application of the tax code broadly, tax code that broadly applies to all industry. And it’s just the way the tax code applies to this particular industry. So I’m not sure what subsidies we’re speaking of, other than if you want to eliminate whole sections of the tax code that won’t apply to any other industries as well.”
  • Note: The oil industry does get subsidies — to the tune of an estimated $17 billion per year.

…on clean energy jobs

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), asked about job creation from renewable energy. He pointed out that about half of all new electricity installed is renewable and that “300,000 people [work] in the wind and solar industry in the United States and only 65,000 coal miners who are left.” He also noted that other countries, like China, would like to take advantage of the growing clean energy sector. He asked T-Rex about his views on clean energy as a jobs creator and how he would deal with the Paris agreement.

  • T-Rex answered that this is a trade issue and we should let free markets run their course. “I think it’s really a question for the U.S. private sector, working with the administration, and the commerce department, and others, as to ensuring there’s no trade obstacles to their ability to participate.”

…on oil in Russia

Markey pointed out that Exxon supported the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Manhattan Institute, two groups which are climate deniers, and expanded drilling operations in Russia in 2016 to 63 million acres. He asked if T-Rex would “support increasing sanctions against Russia, even if doing so hurts ExxonMobil?”

  • T-Rex responded, “There will be no space between me and the president or the administration in those decisions. I serve, if confirmed, I serve only the interest of the American people.

Rex Tillerson talks about the Paris climate accord under oath. You won’t believe what he said!

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