WASHINGTON (AP) – The ExxonMobil chief executive said Thursday that his company is “not spreading disinformation about climate change” as he and other oil executives denied congressional accusations that the industry had hidden evidence of the danger.
Speaking at a landmark hearing at the House, CEO Darren Woods said ExxonMobil “has long recognized the reality and risks of climate change and has committed significant resources to address those risks.”
According to Woods, the oil giant’s public statements about climate “are and have always been true, factual … and consistent” with mainstream climate science.
Woods was among top officials at four major oil companies, testifying Thursday as Democrats in Congress investigate what they describe as a multi-year, industry-wide campaign to spread misinformation about the role of fossil fuels in global warming.
WATCH: Oil executives testify about climate disinformation at House hearings
The long-awaited hearing before the House of Representatives oversight committee comes after months of public efforts by Democrats to obtain documents and other information about the oil industry’s role in ending climate action for decades. The emergence of four oil executives – ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP America and Shell – has been compared to a high-profile hearing in the 1990s when tobacco executives said they did not believe nicotine was addictive.
“The fossil fuel industry has had scientific evidence of the dangers of climate change since at least 1977. However, for decades, the industry has denied and questioned the dangers of its products, undermining scientific evidence and discouraging meaningful action on climate change, even as the global climate crisis grew more dire, ”said spokespersons for Caroline Maloney, NY. and Ro Khanna, California.
“For too long, big oil has escaped responsibility for its central role in bringing our planet to the brink of climate disaster. It ends today, ”said Maloney, chairman of the oversight commission.
“This hearing is just the beginning of our investigation,” added Hannah, who chairs the Environment Subcommittee. “These companies must be held accountable.”
On Thursday, the committee issued a memorandum saying that public support from the oil industry for climate reforms has not been accompanied by meaningful action and that the industry has spent billions of dollars to block reforms. Oil companies often brag about their clean energy efforts in advertisements and social media posts, accompanied by beautiful videos or photos of wind turbines.
“Today’s memo shows Big Oil’s green cleanup campaign in action in the climate crisis,” Maloney said. “These oil companies pay lip service to climate reform, but they spend much more time behind the scenes lobbying to maintain their lucrative tax breaks.”
Maloney and other Democrats took special notice of Exxon after a senior lobbyist for the company was caught in a secret video bragging about Exxon battling climate science with “shadow groups” and harassing powerful senators in an attempt to dampen President Joe Biden’s climate. an agenda, including a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a massive climate and social policy bill that is currently going through Congress.
Keith McCoy, a former Washington lobbyist for Exxon, dismissed the company’s public statements of support for a proposed carbon tax on fossil fuels as “a topic of conversation.”
McCoy’s comments were leaked in June by environmental group Greenpeace UK, which secretly taped him and another lobbyist in an interview with Zoom. An Exxon spokesman said last month that McCoy is no longer with the company.
Woods, Chairman and CEO of Exxon, condemned McCoy’s claims and said the company is committed to working to find solutions to climate change.
Testified alongside Woods were Chevron CEO Michael Wirth, BP America CEO David Lawler and Shell president Gretchen Watkins.
“Any suggestion that Chevron is making an effort to spread misinformation and mislead the public about these complex issues is simply wrong,” Wirth said.
Maloney and Hannah disputed this sharply. They compared tactics used by the oil industry to tactics long used by the tobacco industry to resist regulation by “selling products that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans.”
“Spare us the hype,” Hannah advised oil executives. “Spin does not work under oath.”
Kentucky Rep. James Comer, the top Republican on the oversight team, called the hearing “a distraction from the crises that the Biden administration’s policies have caused for the American people,” including higher gasoline prices.
“The purpose of this hearing is clear: to show the guerrilla news theater at prime time,” Comer said.