Oil Chiefs Will Testify at Landmark Congressional Hearing

Top executives from ExxonMobil and other oil companies will testify in a major House hearing on Thursday, as congressional Democrats probe what they call a decades-long industry-wide campaign to spread misinformation about the role of fossil fuels in global warming.

Largest executives from four major oil firms, as well as representatives from the industry’s top lobbying group and the US Chamber of Commerce, are speaking before the House Oversight Committee. Officials from the company were expected to reaffirm their commitment to combating climate change.

The session comes after months of public attempts by Democrats to acquire records and other information on the oil industry’s involvement in delaying climate action for decades. The four oil executives — from ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP America, and Shell — have drawn analogies to a high-profile hearing in the 1990s with tobacco executives who famously testified that nicotine was not addictive.

“Since at least 1977, the fossil fuel industry has possessed scientific knowledge regarding the hazards of climate change. Even as the global climate issue got more serious, the industry pushed denial and doubt about the danger of its goods, discrediting research and blocking real action on climate change,′′ said Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Ro Khanna, D-Calif.

Maloney is the chairman of the Oversight Committee, while Khanna is the head of the Environment Subcommittee.

Exxon, Chevron, and other corporations have lately taken public positions in favour of climate action while secretly seeking to thwart changes, according to Maloney and Khanna. In commercials and social media posts, oil firms routinely brag about their efforts to develop sustainable energy, sometimes accompanied by slick movies or photographs of wind turbines.

According to the MPs, the sector “spends billions to promote climate disinformation via branding and lobbying,” which is being outsourced to trade groups, “obscuring their own responsibilities in disinformation activities.”

After a senior Exxon lobbyist was caught on secret video bragging that Exxon had fought climate science through “shadow groups” and 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, Democrats have focused their ire on the company.

Exxon’s apparent support for a planned carbon tax on fossil fuel emissions, according to Keith McCoy, a veteran Washington lobbyist for the business, is only a “talking point.”

The environmental group Greenpeace UK, which surreptitiously recorded McCoy and another lobbyist in Zoom interviews, made his statements public in June. According to an Exxon spokeswoman, McCoy is no longer employed by the business.

Exxon’s chairman and chief executive, Darren Woods, has criticised McCoy’s words and stated that the corporation will continue to work on climate change solutions.

Along with BP America CEO David Lawler, Chevron CEO Michael Wirth, and Shell president Gretchen Watkins, Woods is scheduled to speak on Thursday.

“ExxonMobil has long accepted that climate change is real and poses major hazards,” said Casey Norton, an ExxonMobil spokesman, adding, “ExxonMobil has always acknowledged that climate change is real and poses serious risks.”

According to Norton, the corporation not only invests heavily in “next-generation technology,” but also fights for appropriate climate-related policy.

“Our public remarks on climate change are and have always been true, fact-based, transparent, and compatible with the views of the larger, mainstream scientific community at the time,” he added.

Maloney and Khanna compared the oil industry’s methods to the tobacco industry’s long-standing efforts to avoid regulation “despite selling goods that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans.”

When Khanna and Maloney called the hearing last month, they claimed the oil industry’s “tactics of deception and diversion span decades and yet persist today.” According to the parliamentarians, the five largest publicly listed oil and gas firms spent at least $1 billion between 2015 and 2018 “to promote climate denial through ‘branding’ and lobbying.”

API’s president, Mike Sommers, appreciates the chance to testify and “advance our goals of pricing carbon, controlling methane, and dependably providing American energy,” according to Bethany Aronhalt, a spokesperson for the organization.

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