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Bernie Sanders Urges Federal Investigation Into Alleged Exxon Climate Research Fraud

Reports say the oil and gas company’s scientists discovered climate change decades ago—and then concealed their research.

Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses a climate change conference in 2009, via Flickr user America's Power

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is pushing for a Department of Justice investigation into allegations that the oil and gas company ExxonMobil discovered—and then concealed—evidence that humans were contributing to climate change as early at the late 1970s.


The Democratic presidential nominee, who is also a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, released a letter Tuesday urging Attorney General Loretta Lynch to form an investigative task force by mid-December.

“[I]t appears that top Exxon scientists concluded both that climate change is real and that it was caused in part by the carbon pollution resulting from the use of Exxon’s petroleum products,” Sanders wrote. “[I]t appears that Exxon … spent millions of dollars to obfuscate the public discourse.”

The allegations against Exxon are based on an eight-month investigation by the website InsideClimate News. The resulting report finds that Exxon officials received information from their own researchers in July 1977 that a doubling of the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere would raise global temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius, and by up to 10 degrees Celcius at the Earth’s poles.

Via Flickr user Mike Mozart

“Some countries would benefit but others would have their agricultural output reduced or destroyed,” senior Exxon Corporation scientist James F. Black wrote in 1978.

But Exxon then engaged in a decades-long push to hide its information, using think tanks, campaign contributions, and lobbyists to “push a narrative that climate science was too uncertain to necessitate cuts in fossil fuel emissions,” InsideClimate News reports.

A separate recent investigation by the Los Angeles Times found ExxonMobil incorporated climate change projections into long-term planning even as it told the public that evidence of a changing climate was “unclear.”

An ExxonMobil spokesman told the Huffington Post that the allegations “are completely without merit.”

Sen. Sanders has pushed for more Democratic presidential debates specifically to create a national dialogue on climate change. The candidate opposes the Keystone XL pipeline and wants to create more aggressive regulations targeting carbon and methane emissions.

California House Democrats Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier also released a letter last week calling for a DOJ probe into ExxonMobil.