Top executives at ExxonMobil and other oil giants denied spreading disinformation about climate change as they argued with Congressional Democrats Thursday over allegations that the industry was hiding evidence about the dangers of global warming.
Testifying at a landmark hearing in the House, ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods said the company “has long recognized the reality and risks of climate change, and has dedicated significant resources to addressing those risks.”
The oil giant’s public statements on climate “are and always have been truthful, based on facts … and consistent” with mainstream climate science, Woods said.
Democrats immediately challenged statements by Woods and other oil executives, accusing them of participating in a decades-long industry-wide campaign to spread disinformation about the contribution of fossil fuels to global warming.
“They’re obviously lying like the tobacco executives did,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, DN.Y., chair of the House Oversight Committee.
He was referring to a 1994 hearing with tobacco executives who stated that they did not believe that nicotine was addictive. The reference was one of several to the tobacco audience when Democrats tried to tell oil executives if they believe in climate change and that burning fossil fuels like oil contributes to global warming.
Maloney said at the end of the nearly seven-hour hearing that he will issue subpoenas for documents requested by the committee but not provided by the oil companies.
Republicans have accused Democrats of exalting themselves on an issue popular with their base as President Joe Biden’s climate agenda falters in Congress.
Kentucky Rep. James Comer, the top Republican on the oversight panel, called the hearing a “distraction from the crises caused by the Biden administration’s policies,” including gas prices that have risen $ 1 per gallon. since January.
“The purpose of this hearing is clear: to provide a partisan theater for primetime news,” Comer said.
The hearing comes after months of public efforts by Democrats to obtain documents and other information about the oil industry’s role in stopping climate action for several decades. The fossil fuel industry has had scientific evidence about the dangers of climate change since at least 1977, but has spread denial and doubts about the harm its products cause, undermining science and preventing meaningful action on climate change. Maloney and other Democrats said.
“Do you agree that (climate change) is an existential threat? Yes or no? “Maloney asked Shell Oil president Gretchen Watkins.
“I agree that this is a definite challenge for our generation, absolutely,” Watkins responded.
Watkins, Woods and other oil executives said they agreed with Maloney on the existence and threat posed by climate change, but rejected his request to promise that their companies would not spend money, directly or indirectly, to oppose efforts to reduce global warming. Emissions of greenhouse gases.
“We are committed to advocating for low-carbon policies that actually lead the company and the world to net zero carbon emissions,” said BP America CEO David Lawler.
Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, who leads a subcommittee on the environment, said he hopes “Big Oil will not follow the same playbook as Big Tobacco” by misrepresenting the facts before Congress.
“As I am sure you will realize, that did not go very well for them,” Khanna said. “These companies must be held accountable.”
The committee issued a memorandum on Thursday charging that the oil industry’s public support for climate reforms has not been matched by meaningful action and that the industry has spent billions of dollars to block the reforms. Oil companies frequently brag about their efforts to produce clean energy in ads and social media posts accompanied by fancy wind turbine videos or images.
Maloney and other Democrats have focused their ire on Exxon, after a high-ranking lobbyist for the company was caught in a secret video bragging that Exxon had fought climate science through “shadow groups” and targeted influential senators in an effort to undermine Biden’s climate agenda. including a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a comprehensive climate and social policy bill currently pending in Congress.
In the video, Keith McCoy, a former Washington-based Exxon lobbyist, dismissed the company’s public expressions of support for a proposed carbon tax on fossil fuel emissions as a “talking point.”
McCoy’s comments were made public in June by environmental group Greenpeace UK, which secretly recorded him and another lobbyist in Zoom interviews. McCoy no longer works for the company, Exxon said last month.
REVEALED: How Exxon stopped climate action for decades, and still does today. We went undercover with Exxon lobbyists to expose the truth. Watch and share. pic.twitter.com/yICeai1Sop
– Unearthed (@UE) June 30, 2021
Woods, Exxon’s president and CEO, condemned McCoy’s remarks and said the company remains committed to working to find solutions to climate change.
Chevron CEO Michael Wirth also denied misleading the public about climate change. “Any suggestion that Chevron has engaged in an effort to spread disinformation and mislead the public on these complex issues is simply wrong,” he said.
Maloney and Khanna disputed it sharply. They compared the tactics used by the oil industry to those long deployed by the tobacco industry to resist regulation “while selling products that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans.”
Rep. Katie Porter, a California Democrat, accused the oil industry of “washing green” its climate pollution through misleading advertisements that focus on renewable energy rather than its core business, fossil fuels. Shell spends nearly 10 times more money on producing oil, gas and chemicals than it does on renewables like wind and solar power, Porter said, citing the company’s annual report.
“Shell is trying to trick people into thinking that it is tackling the climate crisis when what it is really doing is continuing to invest money in fossil fuels,” he told Watkins.
While US leaders and the oil industry rightly focus on reducing carbon emissions, the world consumes 100 million barrels of oil per day, an amount that is not likely to decrease anytime soon, said Mike Sommers, president. from the American Petroleum Institute, the top leader in the oil industry. pressure group.
The industry group supports climate action, Sommers added, “however, legislative proposals that target US industry in a punitive manner will reverse our nation’s energy leadership, harm our economy and American workers, and weaken our national security.” .