Steve Coll is a master at getting behind locked doors. As an investigative journalist with two Pulitzer Prizes to his name, Coll has cracked the likes of the Central Intelligence Agency and the bin Laden family. But he had never met an institution quite as closely guarded as his latest subject, ExxonMobil, a company whose $550 billion in revenue last year dwarfs the Gross Domestic Product of most nations.
“They’re very disciplined, they’re very tightly organized, and they have a very emphatic policy of avoiding press coverage,” says Coll, a longtime editor at the Washington Post who is now a staff writer at the New Yorker and director of the New America Foundation, a Washington, D.C., think tank.
It took three years to get into the heart of this beast, but Coll ultimately did it, even landing interviews with the company’s longtime CEO, Lee Raymond, a chemical engineer by training who famously denied that humans were causing climate change, and poured company money into climate denial organizations and campaigns.