"One of the prerogatives of American citizenship is the right
to criticize public men and measures."

- Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter in a free speech case

Exxon Hates America is clearly satire, but with a serious message. If one judges Exxon and other fossil fuel companies not by the words on their press releases, but by their actions and predictable and already evident consequences, we believe Exxon really may hate America - even if they believe otherwise.

When Oil Change International, The Other 98%, and Environmental Action launched Exxon Hates Your Children in late 2012, ExxonMobil never directly communicated with our organizations. Instead, they chose to attempt to censor our free speech by seeking to persuade station managers, who often receive advertising revenue from the oil industry, to not run the ads.

ExxonMobil finds this critical speech to be offensive. That is neither surprising nor relevant. As the Supreme Court has noted:

"[T]he fact that society may find speech offensive is not a sufficient reason for suppressing it. Indeed, if it is the speaker's opinion that gives offense, that consequence is a reason for according it constitutional protection."

So, does Exxon respect America enough to allow us our rights?

Or will they try to silence us again, just as they and others in the fossil fuel industries have tried to silence and mislead ordinary communities that have spoken out for their health and their homes as more important than the industry's profits?

There are several key assertions in the ad:

  1. "Oil hurts communities and endangers the planet."

    Burning fossil fuels is the top source of climate change, and the local pollution impacts of drilling are often severe.

    Oil is a major cause of global warming. The oil industry's business model depends on drilling for more and more of the fuels that cause climate disruption, even though fossil fuel companies have already discovered significantly more oil, gas and coal than scientists say we can safely burn. Even the International Energy Agency now agrees that in order to have even chances of limiting global warming to just 2 degrees Celsius (beyond which the worst impacts of warming will kick in), two-thirds of the current proven reserves of fossil fuels must remain in the ground by 2050. And yet, every year the oil industry is finding more reserves that we cannot burn.

    There are also well-documented negative impacts on communities that oil and gas extraction bring with them. It's called the resource curse, and the trend holds globally that wherever the oil and gas industries go, crime, drugs and conflict follow closely. Even Fox News is alarmed by the rise in crime around the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota.

    Last year, on March 29 2013, Exxon Mobil, the most profitable company in the world, spilled at least 210,000 gallons of tar sands crude oil from an underground pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas. The pipeline was carrying tar sands oil from Canada, which flooded family residences in Mayflower in thick tarry crude.

    A Greenpeace Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) revealed that Exxon downplayed the extent of the contamination caused by the ruptured pipeline. Records of emails between Arkansas' DEQ and Exxon depict attempts by Exxon to pass off press releases with factually false information. In a draft press release dated April 8, Exxon claims "Tests on water samples show Lake Conway and the cove are oil-free." However, internal emails from April 6 show Exxon knew of significant contamination across Lake Conway and the cove resulting from the oil spill.

    Now oil and gas companies and their paid allies in government are determined to fight community efforts to disclose the type of chemicals that are being used in fracking operations, going as far as to propose a recent bill in North Carolina that would make it a class 1 felony to disclose those chemicals publicly. Many of these types of bills are backed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a secretive group that is in turn backed by ExxonMobil and other oil and gas companies.

    Exxon is the #1 natural gas producer in the U.S., but when fracking was proposed in Exxon CEO's Rex Tillerson's backyard, he sued to stop it. How's that for hating America with your hypocrisy?

    Further resources data and analysis on community impacts of the oil industry are available here, here, here, and here.

  2. "We own your government"

    This is obvious hyperbole, but it reflects the widespread belief that lobbyists, and particularly oil and gas companies have more influence on and access to government than do ordinary citizens.

  3. "Big Oil invests millions buying politicians, and we get back billions of your tax dollars"

    It is a matter of fact that the oil industry spends millions on campaign finance and lobbying expenditures and receives billions of dollars in taxpayer support.

  4. "You'll be seeing more of our exploding trains, dirty pipelines, and fracking wells"

    The All of the Above Energy strategy favored by the industry is leading to an unprecedented expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure across America. U.S. natural gas production has risen by 18 percent and oil production has grown by 35 percent from 2008-2013.

    Further resources, data and analysis:

Does Exxon actually hate America? No one knows, but its record and actions, and those of its fossil fuel industry colleagues, credibly indicate a disregard for our nation and its future. The ad produced by Environmental Action, The Other 98% and Oil Change International is obvious satire, but with a serious message that is protected by the First Amendment.