Esso (Exxon) Boycott frightens Friedman
- =v= Today's _New_York_Times_ has an opinion piece by that smug
neocon, Thomas Friedman:
Looks like he's running scared from the Esso Boycott in England.
Something we could learn from.
A Tiger by the Tail
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
And now for a wild prediction. Within 12 months President Bush,
Vice President Dick Cheney and all their backers in the oil
industry will be begging -- begging -- to revive the Kyoto
protocol on climate change, the accord Mr. Bush yanked America
out of after taking office.
Why, you ask? Well, look what's happening in England. A group
of celebrities there have joined with environmentalists to
launch a boycott against Exxon Mobil gas stations, which in
Europe go by the name Esso. Bianca Jagger, the pop star Annie
Lennox and Anita Rodrick, founder of the Body Shop chain, helped
launch the boycott because, as Ms. Jagger said, ``This is a way
to tell Esso that it's not right for them to be claiming that
there is no connection between CO2 emissions and climate
People connected with Exxon reportedly contributed more than
$1 million to the Bush campaign. Exxon is a key supporter
of research and advertisements that try to cast doubt on the
seriousness of global warming and its link to fossil fuel
emissions. Exxon was a big backer of President Bush's decision
to pull the U.S. out of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which called
for industrialized nations to steadily reduce their carbon
dioxide emissions. Exxon is also a major force behind the
Global Climate Coalition, a business lobby that opposed Kyoto.
The ``Stop Esso Campaign'' is asking British drivers to shun
Esso stations until the company supports Kyoto (see
http://www.stopesso.com/ ). The campaign recently spread to
France. What's funny is that probably none of this would have
happened had Mr. Bush not bowed to the oil companies and pulled
the U.S. out of Kyoto. That may turn out to be his greatest
gift to environmentalism.
You see, as long as everyone was discussing how to implement
Kyoto, no one wanted to take any radical steps. Governments
could say they were working on the problem, but that
negotiations were hard. Corporations could mumble nice words
about environmentalism, but not worry anything serious was going
to happen. And environmentalists could feel their cause was
being advanced, even though implementation was far off.
``As long as Kyoto was there, everyone could avoid real
accountability and pretend that something was happening,'' says
Paul Gilding, the former head of Greenpeace and now chairman of
Ecos, one of Australia's leading environmental consulting firms.
``But now George Bush, by trashing Kyoto, has blown everyone's
cover. If you care about the environment you can't pretend
anymore. Emissions are increasing, the climate is changing and
people can now see for themselves that the world is fiddling
while Rome burns.''
The result: Environmentalists refuse to sit on their hands
anymore. [About time!! --Jym] Instead, the smart ones are
mobilizing consumers to fight multinational polluters on their
own ground. You have to admire it. It's so Republican -- using
the free market.
If I were Exxon, I would be worried -- especially when U.S.
college students come back to campus in the fall. Remember
Monsanto? It was going to sell genetically modified food to
Europeans. But environmentalists in Europe -- worried, rightly
or wrongly, about the safety of what they were eating --
mobilized the weakest link in the value chain: consumers.
[See how Friedman's got his right-wing knickers in a knot over
this inconvenient problem of uncompliant customers? --Jym]
Consumers demanded ``G.M.O.-free'' food. So supermarkets
demanded it from their suppliers, suppliers demanded it from
farmers and farmers demanded it from Monsanto. Goodbye,
This is real globalization activism. ``The smart activists are
now saying, `O.K., you want to play markets -- let's play,'''
says Mr. Gilding. They don't waste time throwing stones or
lobbying governments. That takes forever and can easily be
counter-lobbied by corporations. No, no, no. They start with
consumers at the pump, get them to pressure the gas stations,
get the station owners to pressure the companies and the
companies to pressure governments. After all, consumers do have
choices where they buy their gas, and there are differences now.
Shell and BP-Amoco (which is also the world's biggest solar
company) [True on paper, but meaningless in terms of what's
being innovated and implemented in that sector. --Jym] both
withdrew from the oil industry lobby that has been dismissing
What Mr. Bush did in trashing Kyoto was to leave serious
environmental activists with nowhere else to turn but the
market. The smart ones get it. You will be hearing from them
soon -- at a gas station near you.