Rocky-Snowe Road Winds On

As the controversy over the letter by Senators Rockefeller and Snowe chiding ExxonMobil for its funding of global warming skeptics, The Wall Street Journal, which criticized the letter as an effort to silence critics, weighs in again. This past weekend, on “The Wall Street Journal Editorial Report,” editorial board members Paul Gigot, Bret Stephens, and Kimberley Strassel pursued the issue further. Strassel noted the inherent imbalance that government officials enjoy over private actors, while Stephens pointed out how unusual it was for the Senators to single out a specific group — in this case CEI.

Gigot: Two United States senators have been caught trying to bully ExxonMobil into towing their line on global warming. In a letter to CEO Rex Tillerson, Republican Olympia Snowe, of Maine, and Democrat John D. Rockefeller, of West Virginia, urged the company to, quote, “end its dangerous support of global warming deniers,” end quote.

The senators also write “We are convinced that ExxonMobil’s long-standing support of a small cadre of global climate change skeptics and those skeptic’s access to, and influence on government policymakers, have made it increasingly difficult for the United States to demonstrate the moral clarity it needs across facets of its diplomacy.”

The letter concludes by urging ExxonMobil to, quote, “publicly acknowledge both the reality of climate change and the role of humans in causing or exacerbating it.”

Kim, I’ve been in Washington a long time. And I can’t remember seeing a letter this blunt and, frankly, threatening.

Strassel: Scary?

Gigot: What are they trying to accomplish, Snowe and Rockefeller?

Strassel: Well, no, I mean, look, these people, they’ve made up their mind about global warming. And they’re going to make sure nobody else disagrees with them anymore.

ExxonMobil has been a big thorn in their side, because they have been funding groups that have been asking probing questions about global warming. You would think we would like that down in Washington, but not the senators.

Now, what’s scary about this is these are people who have the ability to institute windfall profits tax on oil companies, hold hearings and drag these people, public companies with share prices, in and embarrass them. So, I mean, there’s some ethical issues about what they’ve been doing here too.

Gigot: I should add that we did call the senators and ask for comment. And they did not return our phone calls.

Bret, what does this tell us about the state of the global warming debate, that they are so concerned about these few skeptics?

Stephens: Well, that’s one of the very interesting things here. Because one of the things that people like Snowe and Rockefeller will say is that there is a consensus here. So anyone who rejects it isn’t simply a skeptic, is a denier, as if they’re Holocaust deniers, or some kind of category like that.

But there is clearly a sense of real insecurity. Because the letter–the real objection is to a relatively small, very effective think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has been one of the very few voices which has been consistently pointing out the flaws in some of the political conclusions that have been reached here.

If there were such a consensus and, if it were only CEI that was rejecting it, why would they have to bully ExxonMobil? Why would they be so afraid of what little CEI has to say?

There’s more. The transcript of the show (which airs on Fox News Channel) is available online. (Free subscription required for OpinionJournal links.)