As part of their investigation into Big Oil, House Democrats on Friday released documents detailing the big oil companies’ strategy to invest more in fossil fuel energy.
Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee say the documents show the industry is “greening” its public image, making it appear greener than it actually is.
They have shared internal documents from the American Petroleum Institute (API), a major oil and gas lobby and trade association, that describe the organization’s climate activities in relation to its oil and gas business.
A memorandum on flaring describes the practice of flaring excess natural gas during power generation, reducing the practice as “an opportunity to further secure the industry’s license to operate.”
“Increasing public attention to climate change has led to an intense focus on greenhouse gas emissions associated with the operation of the oil and gas industry,” the document states.
“There is an opportunity to further secure the industry’s license to operate by improving existing practices to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and minimize the loss of natural resources from flaring kerosene,” it continues.
In a separate email, an API official says that “many of the issues guiding API’s work on climate policymaking are related to the continued promotion of natural gas.”
Similarly, the committee released slides from Brunswick, a consulting firm that Democrats say was designed for BP, as part of a campaign to promote natural gas, outlining support for reducing emissions of the planet-warming methane gas.
“Support gas as a natural low-carbon fuel by taking a leading commitment to methane reduction,” the slide reads. It was a move listed as part of an aim to “develop and protect gas and BP’s role in the future of energy efficiency”.
At the same time, the committee also released strategy slides from Chevron, in which the company said it would “continue to invest” in traditional energy, namely fossil fuels, even if competitors pull back.
The documents released by the committee also reflect some regulatory strategies.
In 2016, BP’s then-executive director, Seymur Khalilov, said that the company waits for regulations to emerge, and then works to “resist and block” regulations it doesn’t like.
A memo from that year’s Election Day warned that if there was a future Democratic administration, the company might want to move to “early engagement” and “help craft well-crafted policy.”
In response to the leaked documents, API insisted the industry is committed to both energy production and addressing climate change.
“Our industry is focused on continuing to produce affordable, reliable energy while fighting the climate challenge, and any claims to the contrary are false,” API senior vice president Megan Bloomgren told The Hill.
“We are poised to be a leader in the next generation of low carbon technologies, including CCUS and Hydrogen technologies. API will continue to work with policymakers on both sides of the aisle for policies that support industry innovation and the progress we’ve made on emissions reductions,” Bloomgren added.
The committee released hundreds of pages of subpoenaed documents from oil companies ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Shell, as well as API.
In a memo released alongside it, it claimed the documents were an effort to greenwash.
“These documents demonstrate how oil and gas executives have ‘greened’ their public image with promises and actions that oil and gas executives know – even as the industry moves aggressively to end fossil fuel production for decades to come – actions.” it could destroy global efforts to prevent catastrophic climate change,” he said.
Exxon spokesman Todd Spitler said in a statement that the committee’s 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 a company disinformation campaign.”
The top Republican member of the committee considered the report partisan. When the GOP took power in the House in January, he instead vowed to turn the microscope on the Biden administration.
“The Democrats’ report is the grand finale of a partisan show designed to demonize America’s energy producers and force radical Green New Deal policies on Americans that drive up energy prices,” said Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.). written statement.
“Instead of political gimmicks, Republicans will return the Oversight Committee to its core mission of overseeing the Biden Administration and the disastrous energy policies that fueled the energy crisis,” Comer said.
The Hill has reached out to other companies involved in the filings for further comment.
The release comes after more than a year of investigation by Democrats into the oil and gas industry. In 2021, industry players testified before the committee on topics including climate change.
Democrats have blasted the industry for its contribution to climate change and fuel prices — with the House of Representatives passing a “price gouging” bill earlier this year, with analysts largely blaming broader market factors for energy prices.
The committee previously released documents in September, including an internal Shell document that said the company had “no immediate plans to move to a net-zero emissions portfolio over our 10-20 year investment horizon.” At that time, the company spokesperson said that this document was outdated.
– Updated at 2:20 p.m