Fossil fuel big-wigs dodge questions for hours in House climate change hearing
Washington DC - Fossil fuel companies testified before Congress on Thursday to explain the industry's half-century of deflection from their impact on climate change. But instead of providing clear answers, they ducked and dodged questions for multiple hours.
Thursday's hearing was led by House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney.
Maloney and fellow Democrats held the hearing to investigate the industry's tactics of distraction from the direct effect the burning of fossil fuels have on warming the planet.
She started the hearing by highlighting the $2 trillion in profits for fossil fuel companies compared to $2 trillion in damages from the impacts of climate change.
Rep. Ro Khanna, who leads the House Subcommittee on the Environment, suggested the leaders of US fossil fuel companies and lobby groups could "spare us the spin," and hoped oil industry leaders would take their "moment to shine today" instead of deciding to "continue to deny and deceive."
It did not prove to be the case.
Other members of the House Oversight Committee added opening statements too, offering commentary that ranged in scope.
Some called the entire investigation a distracting show, while others slammed President Biden's climate agenda for being, in their opinion, overzealous and unnecessary.
Most of the population knows that climate change is a real, existential threat, and is directly caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
The witnesses testified before Congress on Thursday under oath, which clearly obligates them to tell the truth.
However, leaders of two of the largest fossil fuel lobby organizations – ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, and Shell's US businesses, and the US Chamber of Commerce and American Petroleum Institute – answered questions with vague explanations of each companies' intentions and records.
Sarcastic and frustrated Twitter commenters suggested following along with the hearing by playing "false and misleading claims" bingo, and created a bingo card filled with distraction tactics the fossil fuel majors might use.
Unfortunately, anyone watching the hearing would have been able to quickly cross out most of the items on the card, such as the companies' CEOs claiming that Carbon Capture and Storage will one day stop climate change.
The CEOs also defended themselves in saying that they have supported government regulations and policies working to combat climate change for decades, and that their products are responsible for the quality of life in the US. Each company also touted their pledges, goals, and hopes to expand "clean" energy and low-carbon projects.
At the same time, the companies also stated that they will not halt production of fossil fuel products, and will actually increase the amount of fossil fuels they produce and sell.
No straight answers
The hearing heated up when Chairwoman Maloney referenced damning evidence of the mismatch between fossil fuel companies' public statements and what their internal research showed.
She specifically referenced public statements from ExxonMobil that discredited climate research, even though as far back as 1977 – thanks to its science advisor James Black – the company's own research revealed that fossil fuels' greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for climate change.
When asked if Exxon would admit the mismatch – a yes or no question – its CEO Darren Woods repeatedly dodged the question and claimed that the company has always been in line with the scientific research of the time.
When asked if ExxonMobil made a mistake with its contradictory public statements and internal research, Woods doubled down and – again – dodged the question.
Another common thread amongst the six key witnesses was that the climate crisis is everyone's responsibility, not just that of the fossil fuel industries.
It is similar to past ideas that have purported one of the biggest pieces of distracting marketing in the fossil fuel industry, originally introduced by BP.
The carbon footprint calculator was used by the company to shift responsibility for climate change onto individuals and away from the fossil fuel industry, which arguably has a bigger carbon footprint than anyone.
Despite pleas from the Democrat-led hearing for honesty, the fossil fuel industry CEOs and lobbyists once again deflected from their role in ramping up the speed of climate change – this time showing they knowingly undermined trust in science and climate action.
Cover photo: IMAGO/ZUMA Wire