1980 – 1981 Imperial Oil Review of Environmental Protection Activities

This 1981 document from Imperial Oil Limited (IOL), the Canadian subsidiary of Exxon, is a “Review of Environmental Protection Activities” taken by the company in the past year. This document is part of the ClimateFiles Imperial Oil document set, gleaned by DeSmog researchers from the Glenbow Imperial Oil Archive Collection.

Among the report’s findings on environmental protection at Imperial is a note that “CO2/Greenhouse effect receiving increased media attention,” though the majority of this document focuses on air and water pollution, Acid Rain, and public perception of these issues. In discussing potential regulations on air and water pollution, the document notes “there is strong support for more government regulation and little report for relaxation. Despite the recession, the public say they are willing to pay more in taxes or prices to reduce both air and water pollution. It is also interesting to note that the public is not willing to accept higher levels of pollution to ensure future energy supplies.” 

Imperial’s observations and reports on these topics provides insight into both how the company viewed its own environmental obligations, and how the language used to respond to problems like Acid Rain mirrors the language later used in discussing climate change. Referring to the “Acid Rain Situation,” an appendix to this report states “Many key uncertainties exist — Natural vs. man-made emissions. — Source/receptor relationships not known. — Local vs. long range transport effects. — Atmospheric chemistry not defined.” The report ultimately concludes that Imperial’s “Acid Rain Position” is that “too many uncertainties exist,” using the same language of scientific obfuscation that Imperial later began to employ when discussing climate change. 

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