Big oil companies have engaged in a ‘long-running greenwashing campaign’ while reaping ‘record profits at the expense of American consumers’, the Democratic-led House Oversight Committee found after a one year survey in climate misinformation of the fossil fuel industry.
The committee found the fossil fuel industry consists of “taking a stand on climate issues while avoiding real commitments” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Lawmakers said he had sought to portray himself as part of the climate solution, even as internal industry documents reveal how companies have avoided making real commitments.
“Today’s documents reveal the industry has no real plans to clean up its act and is moving forward with plans to pump more dirty fuel for decades to come,” the president said. of the House Oversight Committee, Carolyn Maloney, told CNN in a statement.
For example, BP announced in 2020 that it intended to “be a net zero company by 2050 or earlier,” but the committee found internal BP documents that show the company’s recent plans do not match the company’s public comments.
In a July 2017 email between several high-level company officials about whether to invest in reducing emissions from one of its gas projects off Trinidad and Tobago, the vice- BP’s engineering president said BP had “no obligation to minimize GHG emissions”. [greenhouse gas] and that the company should only “minimize GHG emissions where it makes business sense,” as required by the code or if it is part of a regional strategy.
BP declined CNN’s request for comment on the committee’s report.
The committee said the documents discovered also showed that the fossil fuel industry had touted natural gas as a so-called ‘transition fuel’ to switch to cleaner energy sources, while doubling down on its long-term reliance. end to fossil fuels without a clear plan of action towards a full transition to clean energy.
A strategy slide presented to Chevron’s board of directors by CEO Mike Wirth and obtained by the committee indicates that while Chevron sees “traditional competitors in the energy sector withdraw” from oil and gas, “the strategy of Chevron” is to “continue to invest” in fossil fuels to take advantage of consolidation in the industry.
In a 2016 email from a BP executive to John Mingé, then president and chairman of BP America, and others about climate and emissions, an employee assessed that the company often adopts a strategy of obstruction with regulators, noting, “we wait for the rules to come out, we don’t like what we see, and then try to resist and block.
“The fossil fuel industry has recently been involved in extensive ‘greenwashing’ – misleading claims in advertisements, especially on social media, claiming or suggesting that they are ‘Paris-aligned’ and that they are to find meaningful solutions,” Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard professor who has studied the fossil fuel industry’s criticism of climate science and consulted with law firms that have filed lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry fossils, told CNN. “A lot of analyzes show that these claims are false.”
BP, Chevron, Exxon, Shell, the American Petroleum Institute and the US Chamber of Commerce were the focus of the Democratic lawmakers’ investigation. The companies have denied engaging in a misinformation campaign about climate change and the role industry has played in fueling it for decades. CNN reached out to the companies and organizations to comment on the committee’s findings.
Todd Spitler, spokesman for Exxon, said in a statement that the committee took the company’s internal communications out of context.
“The House Oversight Committee report sought to misrepresent ExxonMobil’s stance on climate science and its support for effective policy solutions, by recasting well-meaning internal political debates as an attempted disinformation campaign by the US. ‘company,” Spitler said. “If specific members of the committee are so certain they are right, why did they have to take so much out of context to prove their point?”
Megan Bloomgren, senior vice president of the American Petroleum Institute, said in a statement that the industry has focused on producing “affordable and reliable energy while tackling the climate challenge” and that ” any allegation to the contrary is false”.
“The U.S. natural gas and petroleum industry has contributed to the significant progress the United States has made in reducing U.S. CO2 emissions to near-generational levels through the increased use of natural gas,” Bloomgren said. “We are poised to be a leader in the next generation of low-carbon technologies, including CCUS and hydrogen, technologies widely recognized as essential to meeting global emission reduction targets. ”
Democratic lawmakers had hoped the committee hearings would be the fossil fuel industry’s “Big Tobacco” moment – a nod to the famous 1994 hearings when tobacco CEOs insisted that cigarettes weren’t were not addictive, triggering perjury charges and federal investigations.
The impact of House Oversight’s investigation into Big Oil won’t be as immediate, but Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democrat and chairman of Oversight’s environmental subcommittee, said the findings added to the industry’s historic record. and its role in global warming.
“These hearings and reports were historic because we were able to get the heads of Exxon, Chevron, Shell, BP, API and the United States Chamber of Commerce to testify under oath for the first time ever about efforts aimed at misleading the public about climate and coerced them into providing explosive internal documents,” Khanna told CNN in a statement. “I have no doubt that this work will be analyzed for years to come and will help to deepen our understanding of the industry-wide role in funding and facilitating climate misinformation.”
Democratic lawmakers said the oil and gas industry hampered their investigation throughout the more than a year-long process. Many of their internal document requests were heavily redacted by the companies, which did not specify the reasons for withholding the information.
In other cases, documents were heavily redacted because companies like Exxon said the information was “proprietary and confidential,” though lawmakers noted that was not a valid reason to withhold information in a subpoena.
“These companies know their climate commitments fall short, but are prioritizing Big Oil’s record profits over the human costs of climate change,” Maloney said. “It’s time for the fossil fuel industry to stop lying to the American people and finally take serious action to reduce emissions and address the global climate crisis it helped create.”
This story has been updated with additional information.