Lawmakers threaten Big Oil with subpoenas for climate disinformation campaign


A one-day congressional hearing on “climate disinformation” Thursday, in which executives from some of the world’s largest oil companies defended themselves against lawmakers, ended with the chairwoman of the oversight committee and House Reform, Carolyn Maloney, threatening to issue subpoenas.

“Please know that I am not taking this step lightly… we are under the code red for the climate and I pledge to do all I can to help save this planet and save it for our people. children, ”said Maloney. “We have to get to the bottom of the disinformation campaign and with these subpoenas, we will.”

Oil company executives including ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and BP America defended themselves and their company’s actions, saying they were in line with the science of the time.

“Our understanding of science has been aligned with the consensus of the scientific community 20 years ago,” Exxon CEO Darren Woods said in response to questions from Maloney. “As science has evolved and developed, our understanding has evolved and expanded, as has our work and our position in space.”

Maloney said she did not get the information she and her fellow lawmakers were looking for.

Lawmakers had requested documents from each of the major oil companies in attendance six weeks ago, which were due on September 30. Lawmakers followed up before the deadline and identified the main categories of documents they wanted to see. Businesses missed the deadline to produce the documents the group was seeking to see, and lawmakers have warned businesses they have until Oct. 25 or they “will face further action,” Maloney said.

None of the six entities delivered “a substantial part” of the “key documents” that Maloney and the committee wanted to see. Instead, they produced “reams” of documents available to the public.

One group sent out 1,500 pages of printed materials from its own website and 4,000 pages of newsletters containing industry press releases, Maloney said. Other companies have provided thousands of pages of annual reports and publicly available company posts on Facebook and LinkedIn, she said.

What Maloney wanted to see was detailed funding information “to understand their payments to ghost groups and to over 150 PR and social media companies,” she said. These documents were not provided, she said, and called these “payments which witnesses today seem to intend to continue.”

Representative Ro Khanna, chairman of the environment subcommittee, pressured Woods to say that statements by former Exxon executive Lee Raymond, who denied a link between fossil fuels and the global warming were a mistake. As Khanna began her testimony by saying, “I have no interest in being contradictory,” the resulting back and forth with Woods became quite tense.

“You know, when I make a statement it’s wrong, when most people make a statement it’s wrong, they say, ‘Okay, that’s a mistake. We regret it.’ I’m just asking you, ”Khanna said.

“I don’t think it’s fair to judge something 25 years ago with what we’ve since learned,” Woods said.

“I’m disappointed that you weren’t willing to say something is wrong. It doesn’t inspire much confidence in, you know, soul-searching and the future. I’m surprised actually, I thought you did. would just say it’s a mistake, ”Khanna said.

Khanna also called on leaders there to tell the American Petroleum Industry, the industry’s trade group, to stop opposing legislation to promote electric vehicles.

Executives would go so far as to say that they are engaging with API and do not agree with all of their talking points.

Big oil companies still fund groups like the American Petroleum Institute, an industry trade organization, which is blocking reforms that promote the use of electric vehicles, Maloney said.

“I see no choice but to continue the investigation of our committee until we see the truth,” said Maloney.

“I tried very hard to get this information on purpose, but the oil companies are employing the same tactics they have used for decades on climate policy – delay and obstruction. Well, this ends today,” he said. Maloney said. She added that she had subpoena plans in hand.

In addition to pointing out that their businesses were operating according to the science of the day, the executives also focused on the clean energy innovation they are doing.

“Just like when we were founded in 1879, we continue to believe in the power of human ingenuity to overcome obstacles and find responsible solutions to meet the world’s growing energy needs to provide a better future for all” , said Michael K. Wirth, CEO of Chevron. at the hearing.

While the stated goal of the hearing was “to examine the fossil fuel industry’s long-standing, industry-wide campaign to spread misinformation about the role of fossil fuels in global warming.” , according to a statement from the committee of legislators, the content of the hearing went far beyond climate misinformation to include a political referendum on gas prices, US energy independence, among many other topics.

But most of the hearing hours were spent with lawmakers who took the five minutes in the spotlight to address energy issues critical to their own constituents.

For example, lawmakers have spoken of the high price of gasoline at the pump for consumers.

“Clearly this hearing is part of a disinformation campaign led by Democrats to deflect attention from failed Biden administration policies that hurt average Americans,” said Virginia Foxx, Republican congressman from Carolina. North.

“As of this morning, $ 3.39 a gallon of gasoline is the average price of gasoline in America,” Foxx said. “It hurts enough families in my district and across the country to decide which items on their grocery list they can’t buy and which trips they can’t afford to take.”

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