Oil Chiefs Set to Testify in Congress 10/28 06:10
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Top executives at ExxonMobil and other oil giants are set
to testify at a landmark House hearing Thursday as congressional Democrats
investigate what they describe as a decades-long, industry-wide campaign to
spread disinformation about the role of fossil fuels in causing global warming.
Top officials at four major oil companies are testifying before the House
Oversight Committee, along with leaders of the industry's top lobbying group
and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Company officials were expected to renew
their commitment to fighting climate change.
The much-anticipated hearing comes after months of public efforts by
Democrats to obtain documents and other information on the oil industry's role
in stopping climate action over multiple decades. The appearance of the four
oil executives -- from ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP America and Shell -- has drawn
comparisons to a high-profile hearing in the 1990s with tobacco executives who
famously testified that they didn't believe nicotine was addictive.
"The fossil fuel industry has had scientific evidence about the dangers of
climate change since at least 1977. Yet for decades, the industry spread denial
and doubt about the harm of its products -- undermining the science and
preventing meaningful action on climate change even as the global climate
crisis became increasingly dire,'' said Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Ro
Maloney chairs the Oversight panel, while Khanna leads a subcommittee on the
More recently, Exxon, Chevron and other companies have taken public stances
in support of climate actions while privately working to block reforms, Maloney
and Khanna charged. Oil companies frequently boast about their efforts to
produce clean energy in advertisements and social media posts accompanied by
sleek videos or pictures of wind turbines.
The industry "spends billions to promote climate disinformation through
branding and lobbying'' that is increasingly outsourced to trade groups,
"obscuring their own roles in disinformation efforts," the lawmakers said.
Democrats have focused particular ire on Exxon, after a senior lobbyist for
the company was caught in a secret video bragging that Exxon had fought climate
science through "shadow groups" and had targeted influential senators in an
effort to weaken President Joe Biden's climate agenda, including a bipartisan
infrastructure bill and a sweeping climate and social policy bill currently
moving through Congress.
Keith McCoy, a former Washington-based lobbyist for Exxon, 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 the environmental group
Greenpeace UK, which secretly recorded him and another lobbyist in Zoom
interviews. McCoy no longer works for the company, an Exxon spokesperson said
Darren Woods, Exxon's chairman and chief executive, has condemned McCoy's
statements and said the company stands by its commitment to work on finding
solutions to climate change.
Woods is among the chief executives set to testify Thursday, along with BP
America CEO David Lawler, Chevron CEO Michael Wirth and Shell president
Casey Norton, an ExxonMobil spokesperson, said the company has cooperated
with the Oversight panel, adding: "ExxonMobil has long acknowledged that
climate change is real and poses serious risks.''
In addition to substantial investments in "next-generation technologies,"
the company also advocates for responsible climate-related policies, Norton
"Our public statements about climate change are, and have been, truthful,
fact-based, transparent and consistent with the views of the broader,
mainstream scientific community at the time,'' he said.
Maloney and Khanna compared 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."
The oil industry's "strategies of obfuscation and distraction span decades
and still continue today," Khanna and Maloney said in calling the hearing last
month. The five largest publicly traded oil and gas companies reportedly spent
at least $1 billion from 2015 to 2018 "to promote climate disinformation
through 'branding' and lobbying," the lawmakers said.
Bethany Aronhalt, a spokeswoman for API, said the group's president, Mike
Sommers, welcomes the opportunity to testify and "advance our priorities of
pricing carbon, regulating methane and reliably producing American energy."