A US House committee has found that some of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies, despite presenting themselves as concerned about the climate crisis, have internally denied the need to rapidly switch to renewable energy and reduce planet-warming emissions.
Documents obtained from companies including Carolyn Maloney, Exxon, Shell, BP and Chevron show that the fossil fuel industry “has no real plans to clean up its act and is moving forward with plans to pump more dirty fuels for decades to come.” chairman of the House oversight committee that investigated the sector last year.
The committee accused oil companies of a “long-running campaign of greenwashing” by launching major new projects to extract and burn fossil fuels despite supporting greening efforts.
In reality, the documents show, administrators scoffed at the need to cut emissions, disparaged climate activists and tried to secure tax credits for US government carbon sequestration projects that would allow them to continue business as usual. Maloney, a Democrat, said “these companies know their climate pledges are inadequate, but they prefer the record profits of big oil over the human costs of climate change.”
Ro Khanna, another Democrat who sits on the committee, said the industry’s approach was “intimidation” against critics as part of an “illegal strategy” to avoid action on the climate emergency. He added that the committee would turn the documents over to “other agencies,” raising the possibility of charges brought by the US Department of Justice.
Khanna rejected Republican claims that the Democratic-led committee was engaged in some kind of corporate witch hunt. “It was an industry that continued to make false statements about climate change and climate legislation,” he said. “Our goal is to force them to end climate misinformation.”
Several of the company’s executives appeared before the committee, where they faced accusations that their companies knew about the dangers of the climate crisis for decades but hid it from the public. Exxon CEO Darren Woods said last year that his company’s climate change claims at the time were “scientific.”
“Oil and gas will be needed for the foreseeable future,” Woods said in testimony to the committee. “Currently, we do not have adequate alternative energy sources.”
Exxon, like most other major oil companies, said it supported the Paris climate accords, in which governments agreed to keep global temperatures from rising 1.5C or more above pre-industrial levels to prevent worsening heat waves, droughts, floods and other disasters. effects.
Privately, however, these companies have reduced the need to reduce and even increase fossil fuel activity, the committee found.
In 2017, internal BP documents indicated that the company intends to “significantly increase development in regions with oil potential.” “Focus on the highest-yielding projects in current basins.”
A BP executive later claimed in an internal email that the company had “no commitment to minimize GHGs.” [greenhouse gas] emissions,” while another acknowledged that any divestment from fossil fuels “could not necessarily lead directly to a reduction in global emissions.”
Industry insiders have spoken to Exxon advisers about doubts about the veracity of climate science, documents show, and a strategy slide presented to Chevron’s board by its chief executive Mike Wirth says the company will “continue to invest” in fossil fuels. even as others retreat from oil and gas.
Shell’s tweets asking others what they can do to reduce emissions in 2020 drew ridicule from Twitter users. The company’s communications manager wrote privately that criticism that the tweet “gaslighted” the public was “not entirely without merit” and that the tweet “sounds good.” He added: “After all, we’re in a tweet like this, it shows that others have to sacrifice without focusing on ourselves.”
The U.K.-based oil company has also lashed out at climate activists, with a company communications specialist emailing the US youth-led climate group Sunrise Movement in 2019 wishing “bugs”.
Climate campaigners say the committee’s work shows the fossil fuel industry continues to lie about global warming.
“The key revelation from this report is that big oil has no real intention of meeting its climate commitments,” said Jamie Henn, director of Fossil Free Media.
“He is not moving to clean energy, doubling down on methane and actively lobbying against renewable energy solutions. It’s the big tobacco playbook again: pretend you care about a problem, but go about your deadly business as usual.