11/01/2012 10:20 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Would Romney and His Friends From Exxon Throw Us Over the Climate Cliff?

Mitt Romney was too busy hauling cases of bottled water for various post-Sandy photo ops to answer reporters who wanted to know if he still wants to cut FEMA, as he suggested earlier in the campaign. Romney refused to answer the question not just once -- but 14 times!

Then, after getting pounded by the media, the Romney camp finally assured voters that he believes FEMA has a "really important role." Oh yeah, so important you almost expected him to add that Obama was doing a "heckuva job."

But until then, it was a pretty disciplined silence, quite disciplined for a guy who has reversed himself so often. One wonders if that discipline followed the advice he received from his communications coordinator Andrea Saul, who has had a lot of experience disciplining post-hurricane messages. As David Halperin reminds us, Saul used to work for a PR firm that was hired by Exxon after Katrina to keep reporters from linking that earlier disaster to climate change.

And say what you want about Romney's other policy reversals, he's demonstrated a remarkable discipline during the campaign by studiously observing a dramatic silence on climate change throughout many months of record drought, fires, derechos and even a storm that forced his party to delay his nominating convention.

Of course if Obama had made climate an issue there would not have been a deafening silence during the debates. (This was the first year since 1984 in which global warming wasn't mentioned even during the presidential debates).

For his part, our "all of the above" president has been hardly inspirational in addressing the threat of climate change. Seems he's been too busy trying to convince fence-sitters that he really believes in alchemical follies such as "clean coal." You have to believe your pollsters are right -- that it will pay off in Ohio to adopt such a theme while the industry spends millions to unseat you.

But despite all twisting and bending over going on on the other side, Romney is still the greenhouse gangsters' main man. Rove and the oiligarchy may have preferred someone else, but they still know who's on their side. And hell, the guy's communications is Exxon's fixer. That has to count for something!

It's interesting to note that like Romney, even Exxon shifts its position slightly when it becomes too costly to remain in total denial. Asked about his position on global warming after a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations earlier this year, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, told the audience, "I'm not disputing that increasing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere is going to have an impact. It'll have a warming impact. The -- how large it is is what is very hard for anyone to predict. ... we believe those consequences are manageable. They do require us to begin to exert -- or spend more policy effort on adaptation."

In other words, Exxon's shifted from denying climate to admitting it may be real, but rather than do something foolish like try to prevent it, let's figure out how to adapt. You'd almost expect that Rex would have seconded his own motion by getting out there to pass sandbags and cases of bottled water along to Mitt Romney.

Tillerson: "We have spent our entire existence adapting, OK? So we will adapt to this. Changes to weather patterns that move crop production areas around -- we'll adapt to that. It's an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions. And so I don't -- the fear factor that people want to throw out there to say we just have to stop this, I do not accept."

Gee, Rex, is that what you'd say to New Yorkers after Sandy? Will Exxon pay for all those levies and lochs and lost houses, boats, cars and loved ones?

Will Exxon reimburse all the farmers who lost their crops this year? Will Exxon feed the tens of millions of people who are pushed into starvation when -- as a result of climate-induced drought -- crop losses translate into rising grain prices, pushing them into starvation?

It's interesting to note that Exxon and Tillerson are on record supporting a carbon tax -- a tacit recognition that we need to do something to prevent the worst effects of runaway fossil fuel use. Perhaps instead of offsetting a carbon tax with a regressive corporate income tax, as its friends over at the American Enterprise Institute have proposed, Exxon and Tillerson will support using the funds generated to pay for all the programs that will be necessary to help people adapt to the catastrophic consequences of extreme weather events -- where that's even possible.

Otherwise, we can expect Exxon will be just as happy joining Romney or whatever pliant pol they can find to give it a big "heave-ho" -- and throw us all over the Climate Cliff.