HOUSTON—Philip Cooney, the White House aide at the center of the administration’s efforts to downplay the impact of global warming, has joined ExxonMobil in an undisclosed public affairs position.
Cooney resigned as chief of staff for President Bush’s environmental policy council last week, after leaked documents revealed that the former American Petroleum Institute lobbyist had edited government climate reports to cast doubt on the link between greenhouse gas emissions and rising global temperatures.
The role of Cooney—who has no scientific training—in editing the documents was criticized by leading Democrats.
“This is just one more example of how the Bush White House is bought and sold by the very industries it is supposed to regulate,” Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean said in a statement. Added Senator Harry Reid, “The revolving door between the White House and big oil swung open again yesterday, just as the White House expressed opposition to key initiatives in the energy bill that will move America toward energy independence.”
However, the White House insisted his activities were part of the normal review process for documents on environmental issues that involve multiple government agencies.
“Phil Cooney did a great job,” said Dana Perino, deputy spokeswoman for the White House, commenting on his departure. “We appreciate his public service and the work that he did, and we wish him well in the private sector.”
ExxonMobil has been the most aggressive of all the world’s oil companies in lobbying against measures designed to slow global warming, becoming increasingly isolated even within the oil industry, and mounting a steadfast opposition to the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which the United States has refused to ratify, claiming it would put the nation at a competitive disadvantage.
However, company spokesman Tom Cirigliano told reporters this week that the company was committed to acting responsibly on the issue. “Opposition to Kyoto does not equate to a lack of concern about the environment or the issue of climate change,” said Cirigliano. “Exxon Mobil has taken, is taking and will continue to take tangible actions to reduce emissions in our operations, as well as in customer use of our products, and to better understand and prepare for the risks of climate change.”
Many observers suspected the influence of ExxonMobil behind the White House obstructionism.
In a statement, ExxonMobil said politics had nothing to do with its decision to hire Cooney, who will handle undisclosed public affairs duties for the company.