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Opinion

Readers React: What big oil companies knew about climate change, and when they knew it

Oil platform in Norway

The gas platform “Troll” near Stavanger in western Norway in 1995. 

(Associated Press)

To the editor: Plaudits to The Times for its series illuminating the gap between Exxon Mobil’s public position and its internal planning on the issue of climate change. (“Big oil companies united to fight regulations – but spent millions bracing for climate change,” Dec. 31)

Perhaps the most outrageous element of this institutionalized hypocrisy in the 2000s before 2010 was the millions of dollars Big Oil donated to organizations championing climate-change skepticism; that’s not to discount huge sums it spent securing politicians’ support.

It’s as if the petroleum industry’s titans, as captains of the foundering Titanic, proclaimed that the ship wasn’t sinking while they readied lifeboats to save themselves.

How nice that Big Oil now concedes the harsh, far-reaching realities of global warming. Trouble is, the politicians they bought off remain well ensconced in Washington, intent on rearranging the Titanic’s deck chairs.

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Gloria Martel, Los Angeles

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To the editor: “Big Oil” is a loaded term focus-group tested for maximum pejorative effect, truth be damned. Can someone even define what it means?

In economic terms, all oil is a fungible commodity, so this term Big Oil is meaningless. Nobody sets prices except markets. While oil companies want to sell their product for the most they can get, so does the shoe company and the carrot farmer.

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Oh, and don’t deny it: We throw around terms like Big Oil because they reinforce the simple ways in which we categorize the world. Like “assault weapon,” “women’s health,” “rich” and other nebulous terms, Big Oil gets regurgitated by fawning media propaganda offices.

Michael J. McKinney, Cerritos

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To the editor: These companies are complicit in the climate change-related deaths of hundreds of thousands per year, the vast majority of which are children, according to the World Health Organization.

Deniers in Congress strive to cripple our national efforts to pivot to clean energy even today, aided by the “cheerful recklessness,” to use Pope Francis’ term, of the voters.

Like pharmaceutical companies that consciously hide crucial safety data that endangers the public but cuts into profits, this is clearly immoral at best, criminally negligent at the worst.

Jan Freed, Los Angeles 

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