Big Oil has been engaged in a long-running climate disinformation campaign while reaping record profits


After a year-long investigation by the Democratic-led House Oversight Committee into climate misinformation from fossil fuels, Big Oil companies have engaged in a “prolonged greening campaign” while making “record profits at the expense of American consumers.” industry.

The committee found that the fossil fuel industry has “focused on climate issues while avoiding real commitments” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Lawmakers say it is trying to pretend it is part of the climate solution, despite internal industry documents revealing how companies are avoiding making real commitments.

“Today’s filing shows that the industry has no real plans to clean up its act and is moving forward with plans to pump more dirty fuels for decades,” House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney told CNN.

For example, BP announced in 2020 that it intended to “become a net zero company by 2050 or sooner,” but the committee found internal BP documents that showed the company’s latest plans did not line up with the company’s public comments.

In a July 2017 email between several top company officials about whether to invest in curbing emissions from one of its gas projects off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago, BP’s vice president of engineering noted that BP’s “minimize GHG no obligation to download. [greenhouse gas] emissions’ and the company should only ‘minimize GHG emissions where it makes commercial sense’, as required by the code or if it fits the regional strategy.

BP declined CNN’s request for comment on the committee’s report.

The committee said the leaked documents also presented the fossil fuel industry as a “bridge fuel” for the transition to cleaner energy sources, while doubling down on its long-term dependence on fossil fuels with no clear plan. action for a full transition to clean energy.

A strategy slide presented by CEO Mike Wirth to the Chevron Board of Directors and obtained by the committee says that while Chevron has seen “traditional energy business competitors pull back from oil and gas,” Chevron’s strategy is to “continue to invest” in fossil fuels. benefit from consolidation in the industry.

In a 2016 climate and emissions-related email from a BP chief to then-BP America chairman and president John Minge and others, one employee assessed the company’s often defensive strategy with regulators, noting: “We don’t like the exit rules, what we’re seeing, and then the resistance. we try to show and block”.

“The fossil fuel industry has recently engaged in extensive ‘greening’ – misleading claims in advertising, particularly on social media, that claim or suggest they are ‘Paris-aligned’ and committed to meaningful solutions,” Naomi Oreskes, Fossil Fuel Industry Climate Science a Harvard professor who studies reprimands and consults with law firms that have filed lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry, told CNN. “Numerous analyzes show that these claims are not true.”

BP, Chevron, Exxon, Shell, the American Petroleum Institute and the US Chamber of Commerce have been the focus of investigations by Democratic lawmakers. The companies have denied participating in a disinformation campaign about climate change and the industry’s decades-long role in fueling it. CNN has reached out to companies and organizations for comment on the committee’s findings.

Exxon spokesman Todd Spitler said in a statement that the committee took the internal communications out of context.

“The House Oversight Committee report attempted to misrepresent ExxonMobil’s position on climate science and its support for effective policy solutions by misrepresenting well-intentioned internal policy discussions as the company’s disinformation campaign,” Spitler said. “If the specific members of the committee are so sure they are right, why did they have to take so many things out of context to prove their point?”

Megan Bloomgren, senior vice president of the American Petroleum Institute, said in a statement that the industry is focused on “affordable, reliable energy production while fighting the climate challenge” and that “any claims to the contrary are false.”

“The U.S. natural gas and oil industry has contributed to the significant progress made in reducing America’s CO2 emissions by increasing the use of U.S. natural gas,” Bloomgren said. “We are poised to lead the next generation of low-carbon technologies, including CCUS and Hydrogen technologies – technologies widely recognized as critical to meeting the world’s emissions reduction targets.”

Democratic lawmakers hoped the committee’s hearings would be the fossil fuel industry’s “Big Tobacco” moment — a nod to the famous 1994 hearings in which tobacco CEOs insisted cigarettes were not addictive and led to perjury charges and federal investigations.

The impact of the House investigation into Big Oil will not be immediate, but Rep. Ro Khanna, chairman of the Democratic and Oversight environment subcommittee, said the findings add to the industry’s historical record and 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 US Chamber of Commerce to testify under oath for the first time in history about their efforts to mislead the public about climate. and forced them to hand over explosive internal documents,” Khanna told CNN in a statement. “I have no doubt that this case will be analyzed for years to come and will help deepen our understanding of the entire industry’s role in funding and facilitating climate disinformation.”

Democratic lawmakers said the oil and gas industry blocked their investigation throughout the more than year-long process. Many of their requests for internal documents were heavily redacted by the companies, which gave no reasons for withholding the information.

In other cases, the documents were heavily redacted because companies such as Exxon said the information was “proprietary and confidential,” although lawmakers noted in the committee subpoena that there was no good reason to withhold the information.

“These companies know their climate pledges are inadequate, but they put Big Oil’s record profits ahead of 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 solve the global climate crisis they helped create.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

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