Oil companies downplay early weather awareness under fire from Democrats

US oil industry leaders refused to admit that their companies had ever misled the public about the link between burning fossil fuels and global warming during a tense House hearing Thursday.

The hearing before the House of Representatives Oversight Committee was described as “Feeding the climate crisis: exposing the disinformation campaign of the big oil companies to prevent climate action”, and the president Carolyn maloneyCarolyn Maloney Democrats hope to hold Big Oil ‘accountable’ Overnight Energy & Environment – Presented by American Clean Power – Democrats prepare to question oil executives Washington soccer team MORE (DN.Y.) set the tone early.

“I want each of you to affirm that your organization will no longer spend money, either directly or indirectly, to oppose efforts to reduce emissions and address climate change,” he said.

The executives did not directly say they would, and Maloney accused one of them of filibustering. He soon moved on after declaring that none of them were willing to make their “promise.”

Rep. Ro khannaRohit (Ro) Khanna Democrats hope to hold Big Oil accountable State Department issues first US passport with X gender marker As the clock ticks, Manchin is the vote to approve the spending plan MORE (D-Calif.), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee’s Environmental Subcommittee, repeatedly lobbied Exxon CEO Darren Woods on then-CEO Lee Raymond’s statements in 2002, in which he denied a link between fossil fuel combustion and climate change.

These comments, Khanna noted, came decades after internal 1978 reports from Exxon scientists warned of such a link.

While Woods acknowledged the connection between burning fossil fuels and warmer temperatures, he maintained that Raymond’s comments had been consistent with current science despite internal research.

Meanwhile, he also claimed that the company had no “unique” knowledge of climate science.

“I am not aware of any unique knowledge we had about science. We engaged with the broader community and worked with them to advance our own knowledge and as time passed and scientific knowledge evolved, so did our position. “, said.

Numerous ongoing lawsuits and news reports have alleged that companies knew about climate change for decades, but took a contrary position in public.

BP America president David Lawler stated that his company had been aware of climate change reports since the 1980s, but said there was “debate.”

“There was a lot of science, there was a lot of debate that was published during that time period, but I would say that BP focused on the landmark IPCC study in 1996,” Lawler said, referring to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. .

Executives from BP and Exxon testified alongside top brass from Shell, Chevron and key lobby groups such as the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Chamber of Commerce.

Maloney announced at the end of the hearing that it would be issue citations to oil interests, which it said did not provide the requested financial documents and internal communications.

“I don’t take this step lightly,” he said. “We need to get to the bottom of the oil industry’s disinformation campaign, and with these subpoenas we will.”

Speaking to reporters during a break, Khanna said future audiences remain on the table, with potentially expanded witness lists, including social media executives whose platforms may have spread climate disinformation.

Khanna also addressed Woods and refused to address his predecessor’s statements that denied the role of fossil fuels in climate change.

“I’m surprised he chose to defend that statement as consistent with science,” Khanna said. “I don’t see how you say that is consistent with the science that Exxon had.

When asked if Woods had lied under oath, Khanna replied “you’re going to have to explain … because Raymond’s comment is in direct contradiction to the 1978 report.”

The Hill has contacted Exxon for comment.

During the hearing, Democrats also sought a pledge from executives to leave API, a key trade group, over issues including their resistance to electrifying America’s vehicle fleet.

“Would any of you take the opportunity to look at the API and say stop? Any of you? ”Khanna asked.

“What I will commit to is to continue to be an active member of the API,” Shell President Gretchen Watkins said, noting that the group discusses “many” issues.

Lawmakers repeatedly tried to compare the audience to a 1994 survey of tobacco executives. But a big difference was that in this case companies now recognize the impacts that burning fossil fuels has on climate change, whereas in 1994, executives denied that cigarettes were addictive.

Democrats also tried to highlight the differences between business rhetoric and actions on climate change, focusing on the lobbying priorities of businesses and business groups.

The committee released an analysis that found that all four companies and the American Petroleum Institute reported 4,597 lobbying cases since 2015, but only eight.

lobbying cases on the Paris Climate Accord, compared to hundreds of cases involving corporate tax breaks.

Their analysis also found that relatively little of total business spending was on low-carbon investments, claiming that from 2010 to 2018, Exxon invested only 0.22 percent of its capital expenditures in low-carbon projects, while BP dedicated 2.3 percent.

In response, an API spokesperson said the memo is “false,” highlighting the company’s lobbying on hydrogen, carbon sequestration, and carbon pricing, though some Democrats have expressed skepticism over whether hydrogen sequestration and carbon are effective solutions.

“Since we launched our Climate Action Framework earlier this year, we have consistently advocated carbon pricing as the most impactful way to reduce emissions and a better approach to the new punitive taxes and energy restrictions proposed as part of reconciliation, “the spokesman said. Bethany aronhalt in an email.

Meanwhile, Rep. Katie Porter (D-California) sought to visually represent the relative size of Shell’s spending on renewables: using two jars of M & Ms in contrast to the enormous expense of the company in other non-renewable operations.

The committee’s Republican minority, meanwhile, had few questions for witnesses about climate change, but accused most of trying to intimidate executives, linking what they called the Biden administration’s hostility to fossil fuels with rising prices. energy prices.

Representative Virginia Fox (R-North Carolina) took her time during the hearing to criticize the Biden administration for canceling the Keystone XL pipeline and what she described as “discouraging” national oil exploration.

“The title of this hearing suggests that ‘Big Oil’ is conducting a disinformation campaign designed to prevent action on the climate,” he said. “However, it is clear that is The hearing is part of a disinformation campaign led by Democrats to distract attention from the failed policies of the Biden administration that are hurting average Americans. “

The only Republican witness was Neil Crabtree, a welder who lost his job on the canceled Keystone XL pipeline and has been a strong critic of the Biden administration.


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