On Thursday, House Democrats held a historic hearing that required big oil and gas executives to testify before Congress about how much they had lied to the public in the past about the climate crisis.
During the hearing, CEOs from Exxon, BP, Chevron, Shell and industry group American Petroleum Institute emphasized their supposed commitments to expanding clean energy and net zero pledges — continuing the decades-long greenwashing and climate denial campaigns that the oil and gas industry has spearheaded since the 1970s.
Notably, when Carolyn Maloney (D.New York) asked them to pledge to stop lobbying for climate bills, the CEOs refused. “I want to ask each of the witnesses here today representing fossil fuel companies and trade associations to take a simple pledge,” she said. “I want each of you to affirm that your organization will no longer spend any money, either directly or indirectly, to oppose efforts to reduce emissions and climate change.”
In response, Shell CEO Gretchen Watkins failed to give a straight answer, shifting the focus to her company’s lobby for climate policy in a deliberate attempt to mislead. The other CEOs did the same, refusing to sign the basic pledge despite claiming to be committed to reducing the climate crisis.
In reality, fossil fuel corporations lobby for bills like the carbon tax — a proposal that climate advocates say is ineffective at best and could poison politicians against real climate action at worst — specifically to greenwash their image. Reporters filmed earlier this year. lobbyists for Exxon saying that backing a carbon tax is “an easy talking point” because “there is not an appetite for a carbon tax” in Washington.
It’s possible that the reason the CEOs refused to take Maloney’s pledge is because they are currently involved in lobbying campaigns against the Democrats’ reconciliation bill. Although the bill had previously included a clean energy program, it was not amended. This was crucialFossil fuel lobbyists have been successful in convincing lawmakers to eliminate the proposal to put the country on the right track to vital emission reductions.
An analysis by the Oversight Committee published before the hearing on Thursday foundExxon, Chevron Shell, BP, and the American Petroleum Institute spent a total of $452.6 million lobbying government since 2011. Later, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), highlighted that $55.6million of that amount was spent by the industry in the last few months.
“Earlier this year, [top Exxon lobbyist Keith] McCoy was recorded in a private session saying, quote, ‘I liken lobbying to fishing. You must bait. You need to throw the bait out there in order to reel them in. They know that they need you, and I need them,’” Ocasio-Cortez said, highlighting McCoy’s weekly calls with certain members of Congress while the reconciliation bill was formed.
Though Exxon CEO Darren Woods did not say he was aware of McCoy’s calls, he did say that he has been involved in lobbying members of Congress directly during the reconciliation process.
“I think one thing that often gets lost in these conversations is that some of us have to actually live the future that you all are setting on fire for us,” Ocasio-Cortez said, highlighting issues like drought, declining crop yields, fires and climate tipping points that will be caused as the climate crisis evolves unmitigated. “We do not have the privilege or the luxury of lobbyist spin.”
During the hearing, the CEOs continued to lie about climate crisis. They denied the cause of the threat and its existence. Maloney cited a report from the Defense Department calling the crisis an “existential threat,” and asked Watkins if she agreed with that conclusion. “Ms. Watkins, do you agree climate change is a threat to our existence?” Maloney asked.
Again, Watkins didn’t give a straight answer. “Chairwoman, I agree that climate change is one of the biggest challenges we have in the world today,” Watkins said, before highlighting Shell’s renewable energy initiatives, which are nothing butIt is a distraction from truth.
These companies’ so-called net-zero pledges aren’t about cutting emissions; they are about rehabilitating their image while claiming to be addressing the issue. None of the large oil companies have a net-zero pledge that would actually cut their emissions — rather, under some scenarios laid out in their net-zero plans, emissions would actually grow.