Imperial Oil Files: How a Canadian Oil Giant Followed Exxon into Climate Denial

About the Imperial Oil Files: How a Canadian Oil Giant Followed Exxon into Climate Denial Series

Imperial Oil Limited, Exxon’s Canadian subsidiary, took a very different path from Exxon in the U.S. 30 years ago, revealing the vulnerabilities and strategies of being an oil company in the age of climate crisis. While Exxon was laying low in the late 1980s and early 1990s, biding time in the U.S. during the George H.W. Bush administration, Imperial was forced to react to urgent policy initiatives on climate change being forwarded by the Canadian government.  

The digital release and analysis of Imperial Oil documents obtained by DeSmog and the Climate Investigations Center from a Canadian archive offers a window into the company’s work to undermine the Canadian government and stop measures that would impact the company economically, while appearing to be a thoughtful participant in the dialogue around climate change.

This new collection of over 300 documents, which includes numerous documents never before published online, marks the most in-depth look at Imperial’s climate science and policy history to date, helping to shed new light and add context to previous reporting on Exxon’s and Imperial’s climate change legacy and documents by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times with the Columbia Journalism School in 2015 and 2016.

Image: © Sam Whitham/DeSmog 

In This Series


On February 4, 1970, the oil tanker SS Arrow was carrying a cargo of heavy bunker oil for Imperial Oil Limited when it encountered rough weather off the east coast of Canada. The ship’s captain had...

It was 1971, less than a year after the world’s first Earth Day, and in Canada an oil giant was worried. “Public concern regarding environmental problems is being translated into legislation rapid...

Today, DeSmog and the Climate Investigations Center are co-launching a large collection of documents from Exxon's Canadian subsidiary, Imperial Oil, that DeSmog collected from a company archive in ...