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Oversight Committee Launches Investigation of Fossil Fuel Industry Disinformation on Climate Crisis

Washington, D.C. (September 16, 2021)— Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, and Rep. Ro Khanna, Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Environment, sent letters to the top executives at ExxonMobil Corporation, BP America Inc., Chevron Corporation, Shell Oil Company, American Petroleum Institute, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, requesting documents on the reported role of the fossil fuel industry in a long-running, industry-wide campaign to spread disinformation about the role of fossil fuels in causing global warming.  The Chairs also requested that the executives testify at a Committee hearing on October 28, 2021.

“We are deeply concerned that the fossil fuel industry has reaped massive profits for decades while contributing to climate change that is devastating American communities, costing taxpayers billions of dollars, and ravaging the natural world,” the Chairs wrote.  “We are also concerned that to protect those profits, the industry has reportedly led a coordinated effort to spread disinformation to mislead the public and prevent crucial action to address climate change.” 

Four fossil fuel companies—BP, Shell, Chevron, and ExxonMobil—reported nearly $2 trillion in profits between 1990 and 2019.   During this same period, the global climate crisis became increasingly dire, and its deadly impact on Americans increased. 

Public reporting indicates that these companies and their allies in the fossil fuel industry have worked to prevent serious action on global warming by generating doubt about the documented dangers of fossil fuels and misrepresenting the scale of their efforts to develop alternative energy technologies—similar tactics deployed by the tobacco industry to resist regulation while selling products that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans.

These strategies of obfuscation and distraction span decades and still continue today.  Between 2015 and 2018, the five largest publicly traded oil and gas companies reportedly spent $1 billion to promote climate disinformation through “branding and lobbying.”

Fossil fuel companies increasingly outsource lobbying to trade groups, obscuring their own roles in disinformation efforts.  Recently, an ExxonMobil lobbyist was caught on video discussing the tactics employed by ExxonMobil to obstruct climate change legislation, including using API and other industry groups as the “whipping boy” to advocate for policy positions that ExxonMobil did not want to be associated with publicly.

“As worsening natural disasters linked to global warming devastate communities in the United States and globally, one of Congress’s top legislative priorities is combating the increasingly urgent crisis of a changing climate,” the Chairs added.  “To do this, Congress must address pollution caused by the fossil fuel industry and curb troubling business practices that lead to disinformation on these issues.” 

The Committee requests that the recipients product documents and communications by September 30, 2021, related to their organization’s role in supporting disinformation and misleading the public to prevent action on the climate crisis.  

Click here to read today’s letter to ExxonMobil Corporation CEO Darren Woods.

Click here to read today’s letter to BP America Inc. CEO David Lawler.

Click here to read today’s letter to Chevron Corporation CEO Michael K. Wirth.

Click here to read today’s letter to Shell Oil Company President Gretchen Watkins.

Click here to read today’s letter to the American Petroleum Institute President Mike Sommers.

Click here to read today’s letter to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne Clark.

 

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