Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Oil giants deny spreading misinformation about climate change

WASHINGTON (NWN) – Executives at ExxonMobil and other oil giants have denied spreading disinformation about climate change as they sparred Thursday with Congressional Democrats on charges that the industry hidden evidence of the danger of global warming.

Speaking at a landmark hearing at House, ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods said the company “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.

Democrats immediately challenged the claims of Woods and other oil executives, accusing them of being involved in a multi-year, industry-wide campaign to spread disinformation about the contribution of fossil fuels to global warming.

“They are clearly lying, and so are the executives of the tobacco companies,” said Rep. Caroline Maloney, chair of the oversight committee.

She was referring to a 1994 hearing involving tobacco executives who are known to testify that they do not believe that nicotine is addictive. The link was one of several in a tobacco hearing, as Democrats tried to convince oil executives that they believe in climate change and that burning fossil fuels like oil contributes to global warming.

Republicans have accused Democrats of speaking out in public over an issue popular with them, like President Joe Biden’s climate agenda hesitates in Congress.

Kentucky Rep. James Comer, the top Republican on the oversight committee, called the hearing “a distraction from the crises caused by the policies of the Biden administration,” including gas prices, which have surged $ 1 a gallon since January.

“The purpose of this hearing is clear: to show the guerrilla news theater at prime time,” Comer said.

The hearing came after months of public efforts by the Democrats. Obtain documents and other information on the role of the oil industry in stopping climate action over several decades. According to Maloney and other Democrats, the fossil fuel industry has had scientific evidence of the dangers of climate change since at least 1977, but it has also spread denial and doubts about the harm caused by its products, undermining science and discouraging meaningful action on climate change. …

“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 by far the defining problem for our generation,” Watkins replied.

Watkins, Woods and other oil executives said they agreed with Maloney about the existence and threat of climate change, but they refused her request for a promise that their companies would not spend money – directly or indirectly – on countering efforts to reducing the warming of the planet. Greenhouse gas emissions.

“We are committed to upholding policies to reduce carbon emissions that will effectively lead the company and the world to zero carbon emissions,” said BP America CEO David Lawler.

Rep. Ro Khanna, California, who chairs the Environment subcommittee, said he hoped “Big Oil doesn’t follow the same scenario as Big Tobacco,” distorting the facts before Congress.

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“I’m sure you understand that it didn’t turn out very well for them,” Hannah said. “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.

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 weaken Biden’s climate agenda. including a bipartisan infrastructure bill and an ambitious climate and social policy bill currently running through Congress.

In the video, 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. As Exxon reported last month, 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.

Chevron CEO Michael Wirth also denies misleading the public about climate change. “Any suggestion that Chevron is making an effort to spread misinformation and mislead the public about these complex issues is simply wrong,” he 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 told the oil company’s executives. “Spin does not work under oath.”

While US leaders and the oil industry are rightly focused on reducing carbon emissions, the world consumes 100 million barrels of oil a day – not likely to decrease anytime soon, said Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute, a leading spokesperson for the oil industry. lobby group.

“The world will continue to consume a lot of oil and natural gas from now until a very long time,” Sommers said.

The industry group supports measures to combat climate change, Sommer added, “but legislative proposals aimed at punishing American industry will reverse our country’s energy leadership, harm our economy and American workers, and weaken our national security.”

Rep. Katie Porter, California, accused the oil industry of green flushing 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 oil, gas and chemicals production than it does on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar,” Porter said, citing the company’s annual report.

“Shell is trying to trick people into thinking it is dealing with the climate crisis when in fact it continues to invest in fossil fuels,” she told Watkins.

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