AS far as what the oil companies' plans are/were, I don't believe it's actually as you put it:
"the oil companies plan all along was to drag out real change to the point where it was just too late to do anything substantive."
I do, however, happen to know they will resist change as much as possible with absolutely no interest in the public welfare. The bottom line is all that is important to them. All you have to do is look at how they do business in the rest of the world as compared to here in the US. Where they operate in other countries with little to no restrictions, there is absolutely zero effort to adhere to reasonable standards. Their emissions are atrocious. And then when you look at the amount of money they could be making if the emissions limits would be kept to US standards around the world, it becomes infuriating.
It's only with regulation that progress has been made, but only in the areas where the regulation is enforced (ie. US, Europe, etc.) All a reasonable person has to do is look at their actual current practices worldwide and it's understandable how one can become sickened by their utter disregard for the world in which we live.
The problem is, this contempt turns into calls for regulation that either a) Isn't do-able with current technology, b) Leads to use of equally bad (or worse) practices or c) doesn't actually enable the facility to implement current technology which would make a MASSIVE difference in the amount of pollution emitted RIGHT NOW. It's so frustrating to hear the stories of how places like the Sierra Club as well as many more lesser known local activist groups are fighting against their own interests with their actions. There's just such a lack of trust between the parties involved (and for good reason) that it's hard to find a good place to begin to make progress.
Now, if we could just get China and India on board with these standards, it would at least slow down the damage while technology catches up enough to make a difference. Because, it isn't there quite yet...and it may take quite a bit more waiting for it to arrive.