This study is an empirical and theoretical analysis of the influence obtained by the American oil industry in the United States decision to first sign and then not ratify the Kyoto Protocol. The purpose of the study is to explore and measure the influence the industry managed to obtain and then compare the period before the signing to the period between the signing and the decision to not ratify Kyoto. By employing theoretical framework, the empirical data collected will be analysed and variations in the influence dimension will be explored.
The background for the study was the US decision to first formally sign the Kyoto Protocol and then approximately three years later decide to not ratify the Protocol. The international community assumed at the time that Kyoto would not survive without the participation of the US and therefore the US was subjected to international pressure to ratify the Protocol. Nevertheless, the decision to not ratify Kyoto was made in March 2001, two months into the Presidency of George W. Bush.
The study describes how the oil industry early on voiced its objections towards the Kyoto Protocol. From the beginning, the American Petroleum Institute, the Global Climate Coalition and ExxonMobil chose a reactive strategy to make sure Kyoto was not ratified. The industry claimed Kyoto was unfair due to the exclusion of developing countries and that it would prove to be costly for the industry as well as the American public. The oil industry did not only object Kyoto but also argued the scientific consensus on climate change, claiming more research was needed to draw any conclusions.
The analysis discuss the influence obtained by the industry on four different dimensions; political mobilisation, unity, financial resources and public opinion. Variations in the influence obtained in these variables are explored for both the first period before the signing in 1997 and the second period between the signing and the decision not to ratify in 2001. After analysing the data, the two phases are compared to see whether there are variations in influence in the two time frames.
The analysis indicates that the oil industry was influential in the decision not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. In both periods the oil industry achieved access on the political decision making arena, first and foremost in the Senate and after 2001 also in the Administration. They were successful in having the Byrd-Hagel resolution passed in the Senate, a resolution which made ratification of Kyoto difficult. Though there were many actors involved in this resolution, there are indicators of strong lobbying from the oil industry that could have been decisive. The unified position of the industry remained somewhat the same throughout the process, although some oil companies turned to a more proactive strategy after the signing of Kyoto. That did not however appear to be consequential for the united approach from the oil industry against Kyoto. The financial resources enabled the industry to promote their views on Kyoto and climate change publicly as well as sponsor independent research and political campaigns. The oil industry is one of the main sponsors of the Republican Party and gave substantial donations to George W. Bush presidential campaign in 2000. The oil industry was however not able to convince the public opinion despite their media campaigns and were not able to attain influence on this variable. Though the public favoured climate change measures and Kyoto, the final decision was made despite their opinion.