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tv   Frontline  PBS  April 27, 2022 4:00am-5:00am PDT

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♪ ♪ >> for more than 150 years, oil and gas has played a critical role in our society, improving human lives, raising standards of living and enabling unprecedented economic growth. >> what do you do when your industry can no longer exist without creating catastrophes worldwide. >> the impacts of climate change are intensifying... >> it's important to understand the past. you can't understand where you are, if you don't know how you got there. >> narrator: in a special three-part series, the epic story of our failure to tackle climate change. >> the whole world is heating up... >> narrator: and the role of the
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fossil fuel industry... >> did big oil knowingly spread disinformation? >> narrator: now, in part two - how big oil continued its campaign of doubt... >> i assert to you that i don't think this is happening. >> lee raymond is salient because he's hammering away the idea of scientific uncertainty even as the science grew more certain. >> narrator: and the political struggles - over taking action... >> we do not know how fast change will occur. >> there just was no appetite, economically, politically, to go forward with a cap on carbon. my brother charles and i provided the funds to start the americans for prosperity. >> we had a multifaceted, hard-hitting approach, pressuring republicans who were weak kneed and democrats who were vulnerable. this was the end of climate legislation in us congress for a long time. we had a shot at it. and we got beat. >> we have continued to maintain a position that has evolved with science and is today consistent with the science. we won't solve the climate crisis unless we solve the
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misinformation crisis. >> frontline is made possible by contributions from pbs viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. additional support is provided by the abrams foundation, committed to excellence in jourlism... the john d. and catherine t macarthur foundation, committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. park foundation dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues... the heising-simons foundation unlocking knowledge, opportunity, and possibilities. and by the frontline journalism fund, with major support from jon and jo ann hagler. and additonal support from koo and patrica yuen. support for “the power of big oil” is provided by the wnet group's peril and promise initiative reporting on the human stories of climate change, with major funding by: and additional funding by: additional support for this program is by the jpb
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foundation and the gbh planet future fund. ♪ ♪ >> in 1998, there was this meeting in d.c. it was convened by the amecan petroleum institute. exxon is in the room, chevron, southern company, with various think tank officers, communications professionals, and right-wing, libertarian professionals. they're hatching a plan to stop people from worrying about climate change. >> narrator: less than a year earlier, some of those in the room had helped block american participation in a major international attempt to combat climate change. they feared more threats on the horizon. >> the plan is a wide and concerted effort to install
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uncertainty around climate science. to decrease political pressure by sowing doubt around the science. their targets include media, members of congress, schoolteachers, average citizens. the plan right at the top says, "victory will be achieved when recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the 'conventional wisdom.'" they said that it was never implemented. but what it shows is an intentionality. "we need people to not care so much about climate change. we need uncertainty to rule the day." ♪ ♪
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>> our country faces a big choice about the future. we are truly at a fork in the road. >> with the help of congress, environmental groups, and industry, we will require all power plants to meet clean air standards in order to reduce emissions. >>arrator: the new millennium began with a presidential campaign. (crowd cheering, screaming) one candidate had long advocated for action to combat global warming. >> in this election, the environment itself is on the ballot, and there's a big difference between us. i'll never put polluters in charge of our environmental laws. >> narrator: his republican rival was an oilman from texas who was also talking about action on climate change. >> i mean, look, global warming needs to be taken very seriously, and i take it seriously. both of us care a lot about the environment. we may have different
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approaches. (crowd cheering) >> during the campaign of 2000, george w. bush put out a, uh, a position paper and a speech and a statement saying that he was all in favor of putting limits on carbon emissions, and he was in favor of all kinds of government measures. it dampened the sharp contrast that i had thought was going to beery clear. ("hail to the chief" playing) >> whenever there's a transition of power in washington, d.c., there's a great deal of talk about a change in the culture, as well. (crowd cheering and applauding) >> narrator: bush had pledged that he would place a national limit on america's carbon dioxide emissions. >> governor whitman reflects a growing consensus in this country about environmental policy. she and i share the same point of view.
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>> narrator: once in office, president bush tapped christie todd whitman to run the environmental protection agency to turn his pledge into action. >> we had talked about it before i accepted the position. some sort of a cap on carbon that limits the amount of emissions is what's critical. and the president agreed with me-- we were on the same page. i thought that this was our opportunity that we could really get it done. >> narrator: less than two months after the inauguration, whitman prepared to travel to a gathering of environmental ministers from eight of the world's largest economies. >> before i went to my first g8 environmental ministers meeting in italy, i went to the white house, and i basically said, "look, i am going to say we'll put a cap on carbon," because that had been in the campaign literature. and i ran that all the way up the flagpole at the white house to make sure it was okay and, "fine, go ahead." ♪ ♪
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the president has indicated he acknowledges that global warming is of primary importance. it's at the top of his agenda. >> narrator: but while whitman was in italy, a very different message was being promoted through the top ranks of the bush administration. haley barbour, an influential republican and energy lobbyist, had written to vice president dick cheney, questioning whether the carbon cap idea was "eco-extremism" and risked exacerbating the country's energy problems. other prominent voices, some from think tanks funded by the fossil fuel industry, joined in, too, opposing climate action. >> this global warming controversy is unprovable, but that doesn't stop people on both sides from swearing they know what the heck is going on. joining us now from washington is jerry taylor, the cato
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institute's dictor of natural resource studies. ♪ ♪ >> my objective while at cato was to demonstrate to smart, engaged people that the case against climate action was far stronger than they realized. and i honestly and in good faith felt that the arguments against climate action were far, far stronger, and so that was my job. and i did it well. for most people, if things are very uncertain, they're not going to commit a lot of resources to address them until that uncertainty clears up. >> do you believe that the people of the united states should do anything because of the weather? >> um, you know, in fact, e.p.a. administrator christie whitman... >> debate is performance art. i was pretty good at that performance art. i was the good communicating gunslinger. >> all right, so less emissions. >> things that'll save money and save the environment. >> mr. taylor, last word. >> we've already had about a third of the amount of warming that we're going to get this century, it's already happened, and crop yields are up, life
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expectancy is up. >> all right, so you're fine, and miss callahan is battening down the hatches. >> things are fine so far. ♪ ♪ when i returned from italy, i heard some rumors that all of a sudden, we weren't going to go forward with a cap on carbon. so i asked for a meeting with the president, went over, and met with him. and it was a done deal. in fact, as i walked out of the office after that meeting, the vice president was just coming by and said, "do you have a letter for me?" i didn't know what letter he was talking about. he asked the secretary, and they handed him an envelope. and he was on his way up to the hill, and it was the letter that said, "we're not doing a cap on carbon. too bad, rest of the world." ♪ ♪ >> the president claims he dropped the plan because it would drive up already inflated energy costs. but the anuncement left his e.p.a. chief, who had vigorously promoted the curbs, twisting in
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the wind. >> i was really blindsided when i found that we were backing out of that pledge. i was monumentally disappointed. the administration was extremely close to the energy industry. the vice preside was industry through and through. and he was very persuasive in his arguments, as were some of the republicans on the hill, about how this was going to kill the economy, that we needed more energy, we could not start to put a cap on carbon. and so there just was no appetite, economically, politically, or otherwise, to go forward with a cap on carbon. >> narrator: the vice president was stressing the need for more fossil fuels. >> some things about the future we cannot know. years down the road, alternative fuels may become a great deal more plentiful than they are today. but we are not yet in any position to stake our economy
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and our way of life on that possibility. for years down the road, this will continue to be true. >> narrator: the president, too, veered from the tone he'd struck as a candidate, and was emphasizing the uncertainty of climate science. >> climate change, with its potential to impact every corner of the world, is an issue that must be addressed by the world. we do not know how fast change will occur. or even how some of our actions could impact it. ♪ ♪ >> it really was a tragedy. if president bush had gone forward with a cap on carbon, it would have made an enormous difference. it would have been a huge signal coming from a republican administration. >> the head of the u.s. environmental protection agency announced her resignation day. christine whitman said she wanted to spend more time with her family.
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once we'd gone through this, what i would call a debacle over the cap on carbon. there was no appetite for addressing climate change at all. it wasn't going to be the number one issue. it just wasn't. that was it, i mean you just didn't talk about it. the industry was winning a lot of battles that i was losing. i mean ultimately, that's what led me to leave the administration. i wasn't going to be just a rubber stamp for industry. and i just had enough. >> history's biggest merger created america's largest company. and together, exxon and mobil will be the biggest oil company in the world. 123,000 employees, $200 billion in revenue, and 47,000 gas stations worldwide. >> narrator: the bush administration's u-turn was a victory for big oil-- especially
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exxonmobil. ♪ ♪ its c.e.o., lee raymond, was close to the vice president-- who'd been an oil industry executive himself. >> these men were business associates, they were friendly. they were part of the same fraternity, the oil fraternity. (static buzzes) >> you rolling? >> yes, sir. >> as chairman and chief executive officer of one of the world's leading energy companies, lee raymond has helped to improve the lives of countless people all over the world. and as the head of a major science- and knowledge-based corporation, lee understands the critical importance of science and technology to continued progress and economic growth both at home and aoad. >> i have been investigating the fossil fuel industry for decades. exxon was a ringleader, and they were at the center of the campaigns that were around in the late '90s-early 2000s to stall climate policy. exxon had emerged as the real
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bully on climate change, headed by lee raynd, who was a hardened denier. >> number two, please. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i'd like to comment on the findings of fact about the relationship between the burning of fossil fuels and of climate deterioration. i understand that the corporation's policy is that this remains in the realm of the unproven, but i would like to state from the broad scientific mmunity that this is, in fact, a well-established fact. >> "there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the earth's atmosphere and disruption of the earth's climate." >> lee raymond is salient because he kept hammering away at the idea of scientific uncertainty about human activity driving climate change, even as the science grew more certain.
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>> there is a substantial difference of view in the scientific community as to what exactly is going on. i can assert to you that i don't think this is happening. my mind is open enough to say i'm going to listen to the science. >> from 1998 to 2014, exxon alone put over $30 million into think tanks that were proffering uncertainty, that were questioning the climate science, questioning policies that were being proposed-- really casting doubt on anything to do with climate change at the state level, at the national level, and internationally. >> i started working at exxonmobil shortly after the merger. at the turn of the century, they were making on the order of $5 billion a year. >> narrator: geoscientist bill heins had spent years studying past climate change before
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joining exxonmobil. this is the first time he's been interviewed about his experiences at the company. ♪ ♪ >> i'm disappointed, i'm angry, i'm disenchanted at the duplicity exhibited by exxonmobil to say one thing internally and to say a different thing with a much different consequence in the political arena. >> narrator: he'd been hired to use his expertise in climate change to help discover new oil deposits. ♪ ♪ >> my ambition when i joined exxon was to keep doing my science. and i was blown away, doing all kinds of really interesting earth science research at technical levels above what was happening even in top universities. and not only was it appreciated, but it was for a reason. people need energy to live. and we were providing that
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energy. >> narrator: heins says scientists at the company had developed a deep understanding of climate change and the role of burning fossil fuels. >> this was real fundamental earth science. we really tore apart how does the earth work. and climate is a really important part of that system. so you got to understand the climate system to search for oil and gas. the fundamental idea that we put co2 in the atmosphere, and that makes the temperature go up, and that's bad, everybody understands that completely clearly. >> narrator: he says he quickly saw signs of a disconnect between what he and his colleagues knew and the position the company wanted to stress. >> shortly after i joined exxonmobil, there was a presentation by art green, who was the chief geoscientist of exxonmobil exploration. all the scientific staff were there, and art got up and gave his presentation about how ice core records were unreliable.
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and here were temperature excursions in the past when there couldn't possibly be any human influence. and here's all these reasons why we really don't have to worry about climate change. he didn't clearly state it, but the subtext appeared to be that his bosses didn't believe that climate change was something to be concerned about. there was kind of stunned silence in the room. and exxonmobil is a very polite place. in that context, the reaction was quite remarkable. translated in modern parlance, if, well, my children were explaining the reaction, they'd say, "are you nuts?" (laughing) "no, we don't believe you. we're scientists here, we, we don't want to, we don't want to hear this stuff." >> narrator: arthur green is retired from exxonmobil and did not respond to requests for comment. the company would not grant us any interviews, but said in a statement that it "has long
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acknowledged the reality and risks of climate change, and it has devoted significant resources to addressing those risks." and it said that "it should not be surprising that there are competing views about how best to address the risks of climate change." >> hurricane mitch smashed homes, wrecked crops, killed thousands of people. >> 25 people were killed by mudslides in southern italy caused by two days of torrential rain. >> the people had no warning of the deluge. it came in the dead of night as they slept. >> record temperatures in italy, kosovo, and france have also sparked blazes. ♪ ♪ >> narrator: michael maccracken was one of the government's senior scientists investigating climate change during the bush administration. >> my career was in climate modeling. from 1997 to 2002, i was in
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charge of helping make the first climate assessment on the u.s.-- what would be the impacts. and what we found is that there was no question that it was rising concentrations of co2 doing that. if we really want to do something significant to slow this so that our grandchildren don't face a changing world, we're going to have to do a substantial movement away from the key fossil fuels of coal and oil, particularly. >> narrator: in january 2001, maccracken participated in a headline-grabbing report for the united nations intergovernmental panel on climate change. the i.p.c.c. said there was now "new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities." >> the statement that came out of the i.p.c.c. said, "look, humans are the main cause."
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and that turned out to be very controversial. >> narrator: exxonmobil's response was severe: a company lobbyist faxed the bush administration demanding maccracken and several others who worked with the i.p.c.c. be removed, accusing them of "scientific bias." >> the fax was sent by randy randol, the senior environmental adviser to exxonmobil. it says, "the u.s. was represented by clinton-gore carryovers with aggressive agendas." and so he offered his thoughts on what should be done. exxon just didn't like the science that was coming out. and so was basically calling for a complete replacement of those who were leading the scientific enterprise. >> narrator: within two years, the scientists that exxonmobil had named, including maccracken, would retire or be replaced. >> exxonmobil tried to control the discussion of the united
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states. and then put off the problem. "we'll make our profits now and we'll slowly change, but we won't do anything urgent enough as, as the science was indicating." and so i chose to write a letter directed to lee raymond as chairman and chief executive, but copied to everybody else. "dear mr. raymond, while my departure may be satisfying to exxonmobil, i can assure you that this will not make the scientific challenge of climate change and its impac go away. that 150 countries unanimously agree about the science of this issue is not because of some green conspiracy, but because of the solid scientific underpinning for this issue. to call exxonmobil's position out of the mainstream is thus a gross understatement." and then a few weeks later, i received a response from kenneth cohen, who was vice president for public affairs. "in summary, we regret that you apparently don't understand the company's actions and
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activities related to this complex issue. possible human-induced climate change is a long-term risk that we at exxonmobil take very seriously." they had to write something. (laughs) >> from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." >> lee raymond is here. exxonmobil is having a record year in 2005. his career has been a remaable financial performance. he retires at the end of this year. welcome back. >> sounds ominous, charlie. >> (laughs) >> it's good to be here. thank you. >> the environmental community thinks you are... ...part of the problem. >> mm-hmm. >> they say the following: global warming is produced by co2 emission in the air. >> do i disagree with the premise that the earth is getting warmer? >> yes, sir. >> no, i really don't disagree with that. the climate has changed every year for millions of years. if we weren't here, the climate would change.
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there have been times in the earth's history where there has been no ice on the earth. no ice on the earth. man didn't have anything to do with it. ♪ ♪ >> narrator: exxonmobil itself had been reinforcing this kind of message using "advertorials"-- advertisements with the appearance of editorial content-- in major newspapers. they promoted the idea that the science of climate change was still too uncertain to limit the use of fossil fuels. >> when i looked at those advertorials at the time, i didn't take them as being that important. sitting inside the organization and doing od science, i thought, "we're for good science." i averted my gaze. so this one about "unsettled science" is highlighting uncertainties or variabilities that are true, but they're not
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important to the issue. it's not something that deflects us from the basic idea that more co2 changes the climate in a bad way. they were sowing doubt. it was not just public posturing. it was truly casting aspersions on science. >> narrator: lee raymond did not respond to our requests for an interview. in its statements to us, exxonmobil said, "there is no truth to the suggestion that exxonmobil ever misled the public or policy makers about climate change." and the company said it has been consistent with the "contemporary understanding of mainstream climate science." >> so it would be correct to say that lee raymond was consistent with science in saying that we don't quite know exactly what the answer is. but he was out of sync with the
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science of the time, which said, "if you keep going in this direction, it's going to be bad." that is a different thing than the strictly legalistic argument about being consistent with the science. ♪ ♪ >> scientists are telling us that these kinds of events will become more frequent and probably more intense. >> extreme drought conditions are providing dangerous fuel for wildfires. >> there are many predictions that hurricane katrina will turn out to be the nation's most expensive natural disaster. >> hurricane activity, that's gone up so much, and so beautifully in correlation with the rise in tropical ocean temperatures, which globally is attributable to global warming. the signal is pretty unmistakable. ♪ ♪ >> narrator: as the science and the warnings became clearer and more urgent, some of the fossil
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fuel industry's most reliable allies started having doubts. >> i look back on the work i did at that time with a lot of regret. if i had known at the time what exxonmobil internally knew, as we are becoming increasingly aware, uh, no, i would definitely have been in a different place. (static buzzes) well, sure you can run through your parade of horribles that we've heard about over the years. we were told that there would be massive die-offs from overpopulation and famine, and that never happened. and people would starve and that never happened. and now we've got a global warming situation, allegedly. it became increasingly clear to me that, as i debated smart people on the other side using state-of-the-art information that was being generated in real time in the academic literature, that my job became increasingly difficult. the arguments weren't holding up. that began my move away from climate skepticism.
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because as the 2000s play out, the arguments for action on the scientific front become stronger and stronger and stronger. >> (chanting): what do we want? >> clean fuel! >> when do we want it? >> now! >> what do we want? >> narrator: at exxonmobil, under a new c.e.o., rex tillerson, they had now made a public acknowledgement that the risks of climate change justified taking action. but athe same time, they were still raising the uncertainties and funding groups who disputed the scientific consensus. >> i don't, i don't really read that, and when i read what these groups are publishing, what they're examining are holes in the science, gaps in the science, things that don't have a good scientific basis. >> under rex tillerson, what they said was, "we just don't know, and do we really want to overturn our economies and upend
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things to address growing co2 levels, when we just don't know?" >> as i said earlier, i think having a good debate on this is what's sorely needed. and this rush to everyone wanting to say, "we got it figured out," that's just... i hate to say it, but that ain't so. >> and the oscar goes to "an inconvenient truth." davis guggenheim. >> narrator: in 2006, al gore's film "an inconvenient truth" sounded the alarm to a widening audience, warning of a "planetary emergency." >> all over the world, we need to solve the climate crisis. we have everything we need to get started with the possible exception of the will to act. that's a renewable resource. let's renew it. (audience applauds and cheers) we had reality on our side. and tragically, the felt consequences of the climate crisis were growing in intensity
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and frequency and severity. it was time to regroup again and, and double down. >> narrator: the president wasn't persuaded to pursue legislative action, but by now had publicly stated that humans were causing climate change. other republicans were shifting their positions, too. >> for my first six years in congress, i said that climate change was nonsense. i didn't know anything about it, except that al gore was for it. that was the end of the inquiry. but then our son, the eldest of our five kids, had just turned 18. so he was voting for the first time. and he came to me and he said, "dad, i'll vote for you. but you're gonna clean up your act on the environment." ♪ ♪ so that was step one of a metamorphosis for me. step two was going to antarctica, the science committee. seeing the evidence in the ice core drillings.
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in that mile of ice is an amazing record of the earth's atmosphere. what it shows is stable levels of co2, and then an uptick that coincides with the industrial revolution. we make climate science sound so complicated. it's really not. >> in 2007, climate change was at its most bipartisan level that i think it ever was. you had republican members of congress introducing bills about it. politically and sort of public awareness-wise, this was a bit of a golden era in the united states. >> hi, i'm nancy pelosi, lifelong democrat and speaker of the house. >> and i'm newt gingrich, lifelong republican, and i used to be speaker. >> we don't always see eye to eye, do we, newt?
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>> no, but we do agree our country must take action to address climate change. >> we need cleaner forms of energy, and we need them fast. >> one of the first things that nancy pelosi did as speaker was to create the select committee on energy independence and global warming. and i was lucky enough to land my dream job and be a staffer on this committee. and this is where laws would be made to deal with what i believed was an existential crisis for humanity. >> narrator: the committee picked up the idea of a carbon cap that the bush administration had rejected years earlier. they wanted to set a national limit on greenhouse gas emissions, and require companies to trade amongst themselves for how much each could emit. >> the ultimate goal of the bill was to reduce carbon emissions by 80% below 2005 levels by 2050. and that's a lot of fossil industry.
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a lot of oil and gas producers, the coal miners, the coal companies, refineries. it was going to hit someone's pocketbook. > narrator: the plan emerged as the 2008 presidential campaign was ramping up. republican candidate john mccain came out in support of the cap and trade approach. >> the facts of global warming demand our urgent attention, especially in washington. (audience cheering) >> narrator: so did his opponent, democrat barack obama. (audience cheering) >> i am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children, "this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." (audience cheering) >> having worked on many
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presidential races and around presidential politics, that was the first year where we really saw climate change as something that american voters really wanted to hear from candidates on. and was interesting, because we were not necessarily having a debate about whether or not climate change was real. it was really, how, collectively, can we make a meaningful contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the economy? ♪ ♪ >> narrator: shortly before the presidential election, exxonmobil contacted corporate responsibility specialist bennett freeman. >> i had an informal conversation in the back of a limousine with ken cohen at exxonmobil, who was essentially their chief policy maker and public affairs officer. i think the observation that got ken cohen's attention was that
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we had this unprecedented situation where both the republican and the democratic nominee for president committed, both committed to the climate agenda. and we had a pretty frank conversation about the implications for the company, particularly on climate. i thought that exxon was shamefully out of the action, because it had become so apparent that climate science was real. so my advice to ken was for the company to finally take a public position on climate policy. to make an unequivocal statement accepting the reality of climate science; to make a unequivocal commitment to not fund any more climate denial research, which exxon was infamous for supporting, for funding directly; and to take a positive, proactive position
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supporting action at the u.s. federal level. ♪ ♪ >> narrator: two weeks before president obama was inaugurated, exxonmobil c.e.o. tillerson would give a speech that went farther than the company had ever gone on the urgency of the climate change issue. >> amazingly... that speech happened. >> globally, the outlook for energy expects energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to rise by an average of one percent per year through the year 2030. these two fundamental realities, meeting enormous demand growth and managing the risk of greenhouse gas emissions, are the twin challenges of our time. >> it was, i think, the first time that, at least at the c.e.o. level, they started, just started, to take a policy position that was potentially
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constructive. it's important to acknowledge that this was an initial step. but it's equally important, even more important, in my opinion, to emphasizehat it was a step that was little and late. ♪ ♪ >> i covered exxonmobil at "the wall street journal" at that time, and rex tillerson was a breath of fresh air. he starts talking about the importance of pursuing a lower carbon path. but at the end of the day, i can't really point to anything substantive that changed. >> narrator: rex tillerson did not respond to interview requests. despite his speech, exxonmobil did not endorse cap and trade. the bill, sponsored by democrats henry waxman and edward markey narrowly passed the house. >> yeas are 219, nays are 212. (cheering and applauding)
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the bill is passed. (gavel pounds) >> the president won a victory in the house of representatives on a sweeping climate bill. >> june 26, 2009? it was a, it was a big day. it was the culmination of years of work. inside, i think there was a lot of relieved and happy people, because this was the end of a very long road. it was a huge moment. >> narrator: it was the first legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions to pass the house of representatives. now the bill needed to get through the senate. >> we were optimistic that the senate would pick up the bill that summer. and i think we were a little bit naive about that. >> when somebody's business model is deeply affected or felt to be affected, there are always going to be well-funded
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interests that make the case, "don't take any action, do not regulate us." ♪ ♪ >> one of our nation's largest private companies is proudly built on american values and skill. koch industries started in the heartland. >> narrator: exxonmobil and other companies continued their opposition to cap and trade, but the fiercest pushback came from another powerful force in the industry. >> you may not always see our name on the products you use... >> in 2009, koch industries is the second-largest privately held company in the united states, whose annual sales are bigger than that of goldman sachs, u.s. steel, and facebook combined. koch is just deeply embedded in the fossil fuel infrastructure. it trades shipand transports natural gas, oil, gasoline. so when you think about anything that would reduce demand or
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increase the price for fossil fuels, it's a tremendous threat to koch's business. >> this was a moment when the potential for passing climate change regulation was more real than it has ever been in u.s. history. full stop. that's why you saw the koch political machine kick into high gear. >> do you believe in anthropogenic climate change? >> i mean, there are such a thing as greenhouse gases, and they're contributing to that, but i don't think anybody knows how much. i don't think science is settled. i mean, how could it be? matter of fact, science is never settled. >> narrator: david hoffmann was an environmental lawyer at koch industries. this is the first time he has spoken on camera about his work there. >> my father-in-law, basically, his message to me was, "don't work for the devil. this is a company that doesn't care about the impact they're
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having on the world, in the world." it encouraged me even more to work for koch industries, because i felt like, maybe i can convince people, you know, within koch industries that environmental compliance is not such a bad thing. >> narrator: hoffmann was given the job of assessing what the cap and trade bill would mean for koch industries. he met with a team of senior koch lobbyists. >> i was invited to this meeting. the discussion quickly turned from the possibility that this bill might pass and what we should be doing to prepare for it, to a discussion about how are we going to prevent it from passing, who are vulnerable republicans that we need to target to make sure that they don't vote for this bill. "we cannot let this bill pass. we won't let this bill pass. and we have to do everything in our power to prevent it from passing." >> welcome to americans for prosperity foundation's... >> narrator: the koch-funded organization americans for
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prosperity spearheaded the effort to stop the bill in the senate. >> i can't tell you what a thrill it is for me to be here this morning. five years ago, my brother charles and i provided the funds to start the americans for prosperity. and it's beyond my wildest dreams how afp has grown into this enormous organization. 800,000 activists from nothing five years ago. (balloon inflating) >> narrator: afp began rallying opposition on the ground across the country. steve lonegan, a senior staffer at afp, helped mobilize the movement. >> this country is heading in the wrong direction. but like americans have always done, we're going to rise to the occasion. you know that, we are not going to let this cap and trade bill pass.
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each and every day, i urge every single one of you to get up and think about what you can do that day, what action you can take, to change the course of history. >> americans for prosperity emerged at a time when america was being challenged by the climate change argument. it became very obvious that the republican party was not prepared or willing to fight the fight. and charles koch, whin my opinion is a hero and a visionary, saw this problem. we as americans have reached a moment of realization that the very core values and principles are under attack like never before in our lifetime. we had a multifaceted, hard- hitting approach, pressuring republicans who were weak-kneed and democrats who were vulnerable whose states would be impacted by this. if you're going to go into a war, like this was, the first thing you need to do is get your troops marching, get them energized.
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and that's what we did in that summer. (crowd clamoring, cheering) >> this was a volatile time in american life. (clamoring, whistle blowing) we had just had the biggest economic collapse since the depression. the tea party movement was animated by a lot of genuine political passion. koch very cunningly stepped in and channeled that energy to koch ends. (crowd clamoring) koch took that passion and also told these people, "oh, hey, by the way, the government is trying to regulate greenhouse gases, which is another form of socialist tyranny, and they're trying to take your country away from you." >> all of a sudden, people started to get really energized about climate change, and not in a positive w. >> (chanting): no obamacare! no cap and trade! >> they are people screaming, and they're animated about cap
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and trade. and it's, like, "what, what just happened? how did, how did this happen?" from the summer of 2009, through the winter into the spring, we graally saw the u.s. senate back away from climate, basically because the handful of republicans who we thought would engage on this issue saw what was happening. they don't want to be one of these people who just voted for the climate bill, and now have angry protesters storming down their door. (crowd clamoring) it was a bucket of cold water. >> we stopped the bill from even going to a vote in the u.s. senate. so it died its own death. i think we recognized the moment of relief is when we realized they didn't have the votes to pass it. and the thing just fell apart. there was just too much pressure. there were democrats who weren't voting for it in key energy states. and at that point, everybody knew it was over.
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back to the drawing board for the progressive left. >> i was demoralized. (chuckles) i think we all knew this was the end of climate legislation in the u.s. congress for a long time. we had a shot at it, and we got beat. >> narrator: no one from koch industries would agree to an interview or respond to questions. >> (chanting): you work for us! you work for us! (car horns honking) >> narrator: the cap and trade bill was dead. meanwhile the kochs' and americans for prosperity had been pursuing another goal: purging the republican party of lawmakers who didn't espouse their skeptical views on climate change. >> i'm actually hopeful that this vote that you made was a vote to put you out of office. (crowd cheers and applauds) (inaudible) >> it's all a hoax. >> the republican party needed to be shored up, it needed to be propped up, it needed to be given a backbone.
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>> primaries are the most important part of our election system. you know, some incumbent can be sitting there all fat and happy, thinking they're ensconced and can't be beaten, and someone come out of nowhere, knock them out in the primary. it happens all the time. >> you will get your just deserts. >> this is where you saw the perfection of the primary strategy, whereby koch would, would give money to a primary opponent to take out a congressperson that had crossed koch on climate change. (crowd clamoring) >> narrator: bob inglis was one of those targeted. >> escort her out. >> narrator: he says suddenly koch industries stopped supporting him and backed an up-and-coming conservative opponent. >> my most enduring heresy against the orthodoxy at the time was just saying, "climate change is real, and let's do something about it." they didn't want their money being spent on somebody that was talking what i was talking.
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one very memorable occasion was a big tent meeting-- all of my primary opponents were there. the guy asking the questions was a local christian radio talk host. and his question for me was, is climate change human-caused and do you support a carbon tax? and so i said yes and yes. i do believe that humans contribute to climate change. and actually, let me strike that-- i don't really "believe" it, it's not an article of faith for me. all my faith tells me to look at the data. the data says that's happening. and then it goes to the guy that we were concerned about, because he's a very capable fella. >> no on cap and trade. no on carbon taxes. i have been a prosecutor for 16 years. i'm used to having things proven to me and proving it to other people. global warming has not been proven to the satisfaction of the constituents that i seek to serve. (crowd cheers and applauds) >> i remember thinking, "that
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was a particularly good political answer, but it won't win you a profile in courage, but, you know, a good answer, politically." >> let's go ahead and take a look at the numbers. it is a huge margin of victory. inglis lost every county in the district. he is a seasoned congressman going down to a huge defeat tonight. >> you know, it's quite a spectacular faceplant, to get just 29% of the vote after 12 years in congress. and it became a lesson to others, you know, that you toe the line. >> house democrats of every stripe were voted out of office last night. >> it was a bloodbath for democrats last night. it was historic. >> sweeping, stunning republican victories all across the country. >> (cheering loudly) >> narrator: many of the republicans who won the 2010 midterms had signed and afp pledge opposing climate change legislation. and openly challenged the climate science that had been accepted by some in their own party and industry.
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>> the achievement of 2010, the newly elected republicans, the vast majority of which signed our carbon pledge, was to put an end to the whole climate change argument since then till now. it's been a dead issue. >> are you are you proud of what americans for prosperity has achieved this year... >> you bet i am. man, oh, man-- we're gonna do more, too, in the next couple of years, you know? ♪ ♪ >> koch industries was able to reshape the republican party into one that identified with the idea that climate change is not real, that the science is a hoax, and that is a position of zero compromise and total opposition, not only to any laws, but even to an acknowledgement that the problem is real. ♪ ♪
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>> a u.n. report released just this morning says climate change is accelerating and we are running out of time to stop it. >> punishing and extreme weather once again putting lives at risk. >> climate change is now widespread, rapid, and intensifying, that human activity has warmed the climate... ♪ ♪ >> the world, as an ecosystem, as an entity, is in big trouble. to think about the fact that we are making it worse, that's a hard thing to wrap your head around. if i could have seen earlier that the hydrocarbon industry writ large was responsible for distracting attention from climate change, i would have taken a different path. i bear responsibility for having created bad outcomes.
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i consider often what kind o world are my grandchildren gonna live in. 50 years from now, they ll rightly look back and say, "what were you thinking?" ♪ ♪ >> narrator: next time... >> renewables weren't quite there yet. and natural gas could provide continuous 24-hour generation. >> narrator: the fossil fuel industry pivots to a new energy source... >> when they were marketing natural gas as clean energy, they didn't really know what they were talking about. >> doing something for the first time, taking advantage of this new resource. you don't always know what you don't know. and overtime, what we learned is very, very scary. >> narrator: and the challenges that have delayed climate action... >> we have a supply of natural gas that can last america nearly 100 years. >> the united states is now the number one producer of oil and natural gas. >> a global energy crisis exacerbated by russia's war...
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>> to release 60 million barrels of oil from reserves around the world. >> we all want a clean climate but what we want more than that, is to be able to fill up our cars below four dollars a gallon. we're still very much in the fossil fuel age. narrator: the third and final part of the power of big oil - next time, on frontline. >> go to >> they're hatching a plan to stop people from worrying about climate change. >> for more of our reporting on climate change, including 10 years of documentaries on environmental threats. >> connect with frontline on facebook, stagram and twitter, and stream anytime on the pbs video app, youtube or >> frontline is made possible by contributions from pbs viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. additional support is provided by the abrams foundation, committed to excellence in journalism... the john d. and catherine t macarthur foundation, committed
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to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. park foundation dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues... the heising-simons foundation unlocking knowledge, opportunity, and possibilities. and by the frontline journalism fund, with major support from jon and jo ann hagler. and additonal support from koo and patrica yuen. support for “the power of big oil” is provided by the wnet group's peril and promise initiative reporting on the human stories of climate change, with major funding by: and additional funding by: additional support for this program is by the jpb foundation and the gbh planet future fund. captioned by media access group at wgbh access group at wgbh >> for more on this and other frontline programs visit our website at
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>> to order frontline's "the power of big oil" on dvd visit shop pbs or call ♪ ♪ frontline is also available on amazon prime video. ♪ ♪ you're watching pbs.
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(suspenseful sound) - sometimes i just feel invisible. (suspenseful sound) like i can see the whole world, (suspenseful sound) but the world can't see me. (suspenseful sound) probably one of the most talented athletes in the whole state of arkansas. (engines revving) but where i come from probably though will be the reason i don't make it. (suspenseful sound) i walk through the streets everyday, just looking over your shoulder, cop cars, addicts, just like i used to run touchdowns. (snapping sound) first thing i do is look in the stands to see who came


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