Gas prices are as of July 29, 2022 at an Exxon gas station in Houston, Texas. Exxon and Chevron posted record earnings in the second quarter of 2022 as energy stocks declined in recent months.
Brandon Bell | Getty Images
A pair of Democratic lawmakers on Friday accused the largest oil companies in the United States of “greening” their public image and decarbonizing fast enough to meet climate change targets.
Carolyn B. Maloney, chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reforms Committee, and Ro Khanna, a member of the House Committee on Environmental Oversight and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environmental Control, sent a 31-page letter. Friday with the final findings of their investigation into the fossil fuel industry to the rest of the committee.
Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and causes global warming. The Oversight Committee launched an investigation into what it called a “climate disinformation” campaign in September 2021, and on October 28 of that year held hearings with top executives of oil and gas giants.
The letter is the last part of the committee’s proposal to show that oil companies are not trying to reduce their CO2 emissions fast enough.
“These documents demonstrate how oil and gas executives have ‘greened’ their public image with promises and actions that oil and gas executives know are taking action, even as the industry moves aggressively to end fossil fuel production for decades to come. could undermine global prevention efforts,” the letter said.
The effort is especially offensive, Maloney and Khanna said, because of the amount of money the biggest oil companies are making right now.
“The failure of the fossil fuel industry to make meaningful investments in the long-term transition to clean energy is particularly galling in light of the huge profits these companies make at the expense of consumers, including nearly $100 billion in profits. Exxon, Chevron, Shelland BP only in the last two quarters”, the letter says.
The letter also details the ways in which oil companies are not doing enough to decarbonize their businesses, and points to internal documents that show how companies continue to invest in fossil fuel production and increase production.
“Each of the companies has publicly committed to achieving “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050,” the letter said. “However, experts have found that none of the net zero pledges by BP, Shell, Exxon and Chevron match the pace and scope of cuts needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and prevent catastrophic climate change.”
The letter also points to documents showing how the industry is pushing natural gas as a long-term climate solution.
The letter states: “In 2021, natural gas accounted for 34% of US energy-related emissions and 22% of global emissions. “Documents obtained by the committee show that while the industry plans to expand natural gas production in the long term, fossil fuel companies and lobby groups are clearly trying to position natural gas as a clean energy source and part of the transition to renewables.”
According to the US Energy Information Administration, burning natural gas results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions than burning coal or other fossil fuels for the same amount of energy, but still releases greenhouse gas emissions. Burning natural gas produces about 117 pounds of carbon dioxide per million British thermal units (a unit of heat). This compares to 200 pounds for coal and 160 pounds for fuel oil.
Just as critically, the production of natural gas results in methane leakage throughout the production process, and methane is a greenhouse gas. It is a different greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but it still contributes to global warming.
The oil companies stand firm and deny the accusations
The oil companies targeted in this investigation strongly deny the allegations made by the House committee.
“The committee’s fourteen-month investigation, which included several hours of executive testimony and nearly half a million pages of documents, failed to uncover evidence of a climate disinformation campaign,” said Curtis Smith, head of media for Shell North America. CNBC. “In fact, the few call documents the Committee chose to highlight from Shell are evidence of the company’s extensive efforts to set aggressive targets, transform its portfolio and participate meaningfully in the ongoing energy transition.”
Exxon alleges that lawmakers on a House committee were disingenuous in their representation of the oil company’s actions.
“Our CEO testified under oath in two days of congressional hearings before two separate committees, we have been in regular communication with the committee for over a year and have provided employees with over a million pages of documents, including board materials and internal communications, Todd Spitler, Exxon’s senior counsel for corporate media relations, told CNBC.
“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. If special committee members are so convinced” is true, why prove their point? did they have to take so many things out of context to do that?”
The American Petroleum Institute, an industry trade group, says it’s about securing both secure energy sources and addressing climate change at the same time.
“Our industry is committed to continuing to produce affordable, reliable energy while fighting the climate challenge, and any claims to the contrary are false. The U.S. natural gas and oil industry has contributed to the significant progress the U.S. has made in reducing America’s CO2 emissions. it’s approaching generational lows as usage increases,” Megan Bloomgren, senior vice president of the American Petroleum Institute, told CNBC.
API also focused on industry developing carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) and hydrogen technologies.
“We are committed to leading the next generation of low-carbon technologies, including CCUS and Hydrogen – technologies that are critical to meeting global emissions reduction targets. API will continue to work with policymakers on both sides of the aisle to support industry innovation and the progress we make on emissions reductions.” policies,” Bloomgren said.
Chevron declined to comment. In June, Chevron CEO Mike Wirth wrote an open letter to President Joe Biden, stating that the oil company produced the highest volume of oil and gas in its 143-year history in 2021. And Wirth noted that carbon emissions are tied to its segments. oil and gas production was below the world average.
“At about 15 kg of CO2 equivalent per barrel, the carbon intensity of Chevron’s Permian basin is about two-thirds lower than the global industry average. U.S. Gulf of Mexico production has a carbon intensity only a fraction of the global industry average,” Wirth wrote. Wirth also said in the letter that the oil company is investing $10 billion to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, expand carbon capture and hydrogen technologies, and increase production of renewable liquid fuels.
BP did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.