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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 
Khanna, D-Calif.

   Maloney chairs the Oversight panel, while Khanna leads a subcommittee on the 
environment.

   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 
last month.

   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 
Gretchen Watkins.

   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 
said.

   "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."

 
 
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