WASHINGTON (AP) — ExxonMobil’s chief executive said Thursday that his company “does not spread disinformation regarding climate change″ as he and other oil company chiefs countered congressional allegations the industry concealed evidence about the dangers of it.
In prepared testimony at a landmark House hearing, CEO Darren Woods said ExxonMobil “has long acknowledged the reality and risks of climate change, and it has devoted significant resources to addressing those risks.″
The oil giant’s public statements on climate “are and have always been truthful, fact-based … and consistent” with mainstream climate science, Woods said.
Woods was among top officials at four major oil companies set to testify as congressional Democrats investigate what they describe as a decades-long, industry-wide campaign to spread disinformation about the role of fossil fuels in causing global warming.
The much-anticipated hearing before the House Oversight Committee comes after months of public efforts by Democrats to obtain documents and other information on the oil industry’s role in stopping climate action over multiple decades. The appearance of the four oil executives — from ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP America and Shell — has drawn comparisons to a high-profile hearing in the 1990s with tobacco executives who famously testified that they didn’t believe nicotine was addictive.
“The fossil fuel industry has had scientific evidence about the dangers of climate change since at least 1977. Yet for decades, the industry spread denial and doubt about the harm of its products — undermining the science and preventing meaningful action on climate change even as the global climate crisis became increasingly dire,″ said Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Ro Khanna, D-Calif.
“For far too long, Big Oil has escaped accountability for its central role in bringing our planet to the brink of a climate catastrophe. That ends today,” said Maloney, who chairs the Oversight panel.
“This hearing is just the start of our investigation,” added Khanna, who leads a subcommittee on the environment. “These companies must be held accountable.”
In recent years, Exxon, Chevron and other companies have taken public stances in support of climate actions while privately working to block reforms, Maloney and Khanna charged. Oil companies frequently boast about their efforts to produce clean energy in advertisements and social media posts accompanied by sleek videos or pictures of wind turbines.
The industry “spends billions to promote climate disinformation through branding and lobbying″ that is increasingly outsourced to trade groups, “obscuring their own roles in disinformation efforts,” the lawmakers said.
Democrats have focused particular ire on Exxon, after a senior lobbyist for the company was caught in a secret video bragging that Exxon had fought climate science through “shadow groups” and had targeted influential senators in an effort to weaken President Joe Biden’s climate agenda, including a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a sweeping climate and social policy bill currently moving through Congress.
Keith McCoy, a former Washington-based lobbyist for Exxon, dismissed the company’s public expressions of support for a proposed carbon tax on fossil fuel emissions as a “talking point.”
McCoy’s comments were made public in June by the environmental group Greenpeace UK, which secretly recorded him and another lobbyist in Zoom interviews. McCoy no longer works for the company, an Exxon spokesperson said last month.
Woods, Exxon’s chairman and chief executive, has condemned McCoy’s statements and said the company stands by its commitment to work on finding solutions to climate change.
Woods is among the chief executives set to testify Thursday, along with BP America CEO David Lawler, Chevron CEO Michael Wirth and Shell president Gretchen Watkins.
Casey Norton, an ExxonMobil spokesperson, said the company has cooperated with the Oversight panel and turned over thousands of documents.
Maloney and Khanna compared tactics used by the oil industry to those long deployed by the tobacco industry to resist regulation “while selling products that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans.″
The oil industry’s “strategies of obfuscation and distraction span decades and still continue today,″ Khanna and Maloney said in calling the hearing last month. The five largest publicly traded oil and gas companies reportedly spent at least $1 billion from 2015 to 2018 “to promote climate disinformation through ‘branding’ and lobbying,” the lawmakers said.
Bethany Aronhalt, a spokeswoman for API, said the group’s president, Mike Sommers, welcomes the opportunity to testify and “advance our priorities of pricing carbon, regulating methane and reliably producing American energy.”