Big Oil tells Congress they won’t stop funding lies
Drilled about their climate deception and delay, the Slippery Six doubled down.
Emily Sanders is the Center for Climate Integrity’s editorial lead. Catch up with her on Twitter here.
“For far too long, Big Oil has escaped accountability for its central role in bringing our planet to the brink of climate catastrophe,” said House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney in her opening statement at Thursday’s long-awaited Congressional hearing on climate disinformation. “That ends today.”
For the first time, the CEOs of oil giants Exxon, Shell, Chevron, BP America, and major trade associations, the American Petroleum Institute and the Chamber of Commerce — whom we’ve dubbed the #SlipperySix — had to testify under oath (albeit virtually) and face questions about their historic and ongoing deception campaigns to stop climate action.
But instead of telling the truth, the executives dodged those questions, denied and defended their companies’ legacies of climate disinformation, and doubled down on their deception. Here were some highlights from the marathon 7-hour hearing.
The Slippery Six had a chance to fess up. They dug in their heels.
Rep. Ro Khanna, chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee on the Environment, gave witnesses a choice: “You can either come clean, admit your past misrepresentations and ongoing inconsistencies, and stop supporting climate disinformation. Or you can sit here in front of the American public and lie under oath.”
The CEOs chose to… well, sit there in front of the American public and lie under oath.
“Any suggestion that Chevron is engaged in an effort to spread disinformation and mislead the public on these complex issues is simply wrong,” said Chevron CEO Mike Wirth.
When Ranking Member James Comer asked the oil executives whether they had “ever approved a disinformation campaign,” each said no.
As the hearing continued, so did the companies’ flat-out lies:
At one point, ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods even defended his predecessor Lee Raymond’s sowing of doubt and uncertainty about climate science, claiming that “As science has evolved and developed, our understanding has evolved and developed.” That’s false, as readers of EXXONKNEWS well know: the company’s own scientists had some of the earliest knowledge about the definitive link between the burning of fossil fuels and climate change, but actively hid that knowledge from the public and promoted the idea of scientific uncertainty about the coming crisis.
Ironically enough, when Rep. Jamie Raskin took the opportunity to inform the CEOs that fraud and lies are not, in fact, protected under the First Amendment (an argument the industry has made to defend its actions in court), Mr. Woods responded: “I don’t believe companies should lie… we don’t do that.” 😶
Not a single CEO would pledge to stop spending money to oppose climate action.
When pressed by Chairs Maloney and Khanna to close the gap between their actions and rhetoric, the Slippery Six clammed up — perhaps the single most important moment of the day.
The oil company CEOs also refused to ask the American Petroleum Institute, of which they’re all members, to cease its lobbying and advertising against electric vehicles and a fee on methane emissions.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez pointed out how the hearing coincides with the industry’s concerted attempts to cut climate provisions from President Biden’s Build Back Better proposal. Hard as they tried, the industry representatives couldn’t seem to distract from that fact:
Big Oil’s defenders rushed to the CEOs’ aid.
Other members of Congress, several of whom receive large campaign contributions from the oil industry, made every attempt to distract from the purpose of the hearing: romanticizing fossil fuel use, blaming China on repeat, using workers as props, and mischaracterizing the hearing as an attempt to ban fossil fuels, rather than hold the industry accountable for its actions.
Several members tripped over themselves to apologize to the CEOs, who they claim are victims of “intimidation” by Congress... rather than heads of enormously wealthy and powerful corporations asked to answer to the taxpayers who subsidize their industry. Why not?
But in the end, they had to face the music.
On the other side of the coin, representatives called out the industry’s modern-day greenwashing tactics, including empty net zero commitments and the promotion of expensive, largely untested technologies as alternatives to transitioning off of fossil fuels.
“Exxon, for example, is promoting a proposed carbon capture and storage hub in Texas designed to capture emissions from industrial facilities and power plants,” said Rep. Mondaire Jones. “A way, at least according to Exxon’s own ads and marketing materials, to have the best of both worlds — continue to burn fossil fuels with reckless abandon, but pay none of the climate price.”
Rep. Katie Porter was not about to let the BS slide — and she brought M&Ms to help illustrate.
In some of the day’s most powerful moments, Rep. Cori Bush spoke from personal experience, calling out the racist legacy of fossil fuel operations — and the disastrous consequences of the industry’s lies for people of color.
The hearing ended with a bang.
In a final twist, Rep. Maloney revealed that she plans to subpoena the companies for internal documents they failed to produce as part of the Committee’s ongoing investigation into climate disinformation. That’s no small potatoes:
The Slippery Six made apparent yesterday that nothing — not even testimony under oath — will get them to take this crisis seriously. They proved, once and for all, that they will continue lying to the public as long as it suits them. As this investigation continues, we can only hope that real accountability — in the courts and in Congress — will be the way forward; clearly, there is no other.
For your consideration: EXXONKNEWS cat Tumbleweed knows how to spot Big Oil’s greenwashing. Do you?