Alongside these strategies of engagement and collaboration, a range of civil society groups seek to challenge the power of fossil fuel companies in the climate change debate in more confrontational ways. Groups such as Corporate Watch, for example, aim at exposing the machinations of power that enable fossil fuel companies to exercise what they perceive to be excessive influence in the climate change debate. One company that has come under particular fire in this regard is the oil company Exxon (Esso in Europe). The ‘StopEsso’ campaign has sought to encourage consumers to boycott Esso and lobby the company to reverse its strident opposition to the Kyoto agreement, manifested through extensive media work, funding for the Bush administration and the use of corporate lobbyists to slow progress in the climate negotiations. Exxon has been targeted in particular because it is the oil company that makes the largest contribution to the Bush campaign coffers ($US1.376 million to the Republicans in the 2000 campaign) and has been the most active and high-profile of the companies opposed to Kyoto (StopEsso 2005). The campaign forms part of a broader ‘boycott Bush’ initiative launched by the Ethical Consumer magazine in the UK in 2001 with the aim of encouraging consumers to boycott leading companies that contribute to Republican Party funds, including other high-street names such as Microsoft and Budweiser beer, and to let those companies know why they were boycotting their products (Boycott Bush url).
Oil has two characteristics that make it of particular interest from a global civil society perspective. First, oil is a global commodity in as much as it has been traded on the global market for decades. Both exporters and importers of oil have experienced the forces of globalisation, from interdependence to loss of sovereignty, before it became a pervasive phenomenon. Second, oil brings together concerns as diverse as war and human rights, development and environmental sustainability, governance and corporate responsibility. Therefore, oil campaigns involve the building of cross-border and cross-disciplinary activist networks and alliances.