Advertising and public relations that are powerful relations firms that help the fossil fuel industry deflect and misdirect from the planetary and human harm their Big Oil clients perpetrate in the world have opted not To show up for congressional hearings taking place Wednesday — a decision that critics say helps expose their complicity in the steady stream of misinformation stifling progress on the climate crisis.
With the House Natural Resource Committee’s oversight panel, led by U.S. Representative Katie Porter (D-Calif.), set to kick off a hearing at 10:00am, some of the major firms called to participate — including PR giants Singer Associates, Story Partners, and Pac/West Communications — rejected the invitation.
According to Reuters:
This hearing is the latest in a series to examine whether the oil industry has hindered government action regarding global warming.
While public scrutiny around energy companies’ “greenwashing” claims has grown, the marketing agencies behind the campaigns have largely escaped scrutiny.
At the hearing, the committee will share findings of its investigation into public relations and advertising firms’ work for fossil fuel companies based on its review of documents, such as their submissions for industry awards.
Jamie Henn, director of Fossil Free Media and member of the Clean Creatives campaign which has tried to push the PR industry to cut ties with fossil fuel clients, said the hearing is a bad look for the firms — and they know it.
“It’s tempting to write off Congressional hearings as political theater, but this hearing is PR agencies’ worst nightmare,” Henn told Common Dreams. “These agencies hate to be dragged into the spotlight: their whole job is to make their clients the story, not themselves.”
“Many agencies are still trying to have it both ways,” Henn added, “claiming climate credentials while still doing dirty work for the fossil fuel industry. This type of exposure and campaigns like Clean Creatives make it increasingly difficult to solve the conflict. I think we’ll soon be at the point where no major agencies want to be seen working with fossil fuel clients.”
You can watch the hearing here:
Last week, Miriam-Webster added the word “greenwash” to its dictionary, a development not lost on pr industry critics and climate campaigners like Jamie Henn who have spearheaded the effort between Big Oil propaganda and the firms who craft and help market such deceitful messaging:
It feels like a victory that “greenwashing” is now officially in the dictionary!
We’re going to be seeing a lot more of it over the years to come — which is why @cleancreativesOthers are now pursuing the PR agencies and Ad agencies that spread it.
— Jamie Henn (@jamieclimate) September 7, 2022
Congresswoman Porter introduced legislation last month to protect taxpayer funds from being used for climate misinformation. The “The Porter Act” End Subsidies for Fossil fuel Advertising Act The proposal would end taxpayer subsidies for industry advertisements that encourage continued use of oil or gas.
“Big Oil has been lying to the American people for decades about the damage they’re causing our environment,” Porter said In a statement introducing bill. “It’s bad enough these corporations poison the planet; they shouldn’t get taxpayer dollars to cover it up. I’m proud to introduce this legislation that’ll protect taxpayers from funding Big Oil’s lies.”
Porter’s hearing Wednesday on the PR industry is part of a series of climate-focused hearings this week by House Democrats. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D.Md.) also held a hearing on Wednesday.Chair of the House Oversight Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee on Fossil Fuel Industry efforts to curb protests and allow environmental activists free speech, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md. Rep. Khanna (D.Calif.), will also lead a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing about Big Oil misinformation. This is related to public promises about their emission reductions and price-gouging that has resulted in record-setting profits.
It’s #BigOilLies week! This week Congress is set to take on Big Oil’s lies and profiteering. The fossil fuel industry has made billions, causing the climate crisis and exploiting workers. We must make them pay.
— Stop The Oil Profiteering (@StopBigOil) September 13, 2022
More than 450 scientists, climate experts and pr professionals called on major PR and ad agencies to end the fossil fuel sector earlier this year. Since then, they have continued to condemn creative communication professionals who chose to give their skills to the companies most responsible to rising global temperatures.
“For decades, the fossil fuel industry has misled the public with greenwashing campaigns and sabotaged climate action, even as the climate crisis worsens,” said Dr. Astrid Caldas, senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, in January.
“It’s clear we need to sharply cut carbon pollution as soon as possible — by at least 50% this decade and reaching net-zero preferably well before but no later than 2050 — to avoid the most dangerous climate change impacts,” said Caldas. “But the PR and advertising companies that abet the spread of climate disinformation are standing in the way. We’re calling on them to use their skills and resources to align with the science instead, and promote bold, ambitious, [and] equitable climate action.”