ExxonMobil, the world's largest oil company, has been well-aware of the potential impact of oil and gas exploration on the environment for more than 30 years, according to documents released by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCSUSA) on Wednesday.

In a report entitled The Climate Deception Dossier, the group revealed that the American oil company has known about the adverse effects of greenhouse gases on global warming since 1981. This was seven years before the public was made aware of the environmental issues.

The UCSUSA based its report in part on an email written by Lenny Bernstein, who had worked for ExxonMobil for 30 years as one of its top climate scientists.

According to Bernstein, Exxon first became interested in the issue of climate change in the early 1980s because it wanted to develop the Natuna gas field located in Indonesia.

The scientist noted that the massive gas reserve included 70 percent carbon dioxide (CO2), which had to be released to the Earth's atmosphere or injected into the ground to allow the company to use the gas.

Bernstein added that when he found out about the venture in 1989, the projections stated that if the gas field were to be developed and its CO2 deposit released to the atmosphere, it would account for the largest point source of greenhouse gas in the world. It would also be equivalent to 1 percent of the estimated global carbon emissions.

Exxon, however, did not push through with its development of the Natuna gas field because of the projected implications for the environment.

Bernstein also mentioned in his email that despite Exxon never having denied the potential impact of human activity on global warming, the company did challenge the validity of some scientific projections and funded various groups to promote the concept of climate change denial.

Bernstein wrote the email to answer an inquiry regarding business ethics by Ohio University's Institute for Applied and Professional Ethics.

He said that corporations are only interested in the possible climate impacts of projects when they affect their current or future profits. He added that Exxon is more ethical when compared with other major corporations.

"They may take what appear to be altruistic positions to improve their public image," Bernstein said. "But the assumption underlying those actions is that they will increase future profits."

Photo: Mike Mozart | Flickr 

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