Wed. May 29th, 2024

Senate Democrats: Oil companies pivoted from climate denial to ‘deception, disinformation, and doublespeak’

Jamie Roberts By Jamie Roberts May21,2024

Major oil companies have internally conceded their public vows to reduce planet-warming emissions are incompatible with their business plans, according to a three-year report issued by Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee and the House Oversight Committee.

The report, which builds on an Oversight probe that stalled out after Republicans took the House majority, includes documents in which oil industry figures seemingly concede the industry’s history of knowingly suppressing the link between fossil fuels and climate change.

In 2015, a joint investigation by Inside Climate News and The Los Angeles Times reported that ExxonMobil had deliberately pushed back against climate science.

While the company publicly denies this, documents in the report include a 2016 email exchange in which a media relations manager writes, “It’s true that Inside Climate News originally accused us of working against the science but ultimately modified their accusation to working against policies meant to stop climate change, such as Kyoto. I’m ok either way since they were both true at one time or another.”

The report alleges that major oil companies, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the trade group the American Petroleum Institute, modified their strategy over the years from outright denial to “deception, disinformation, and doublespeak.” Their strategies on this front, the report alleges, include erroneously positioning natural gas as a climate-friendly “bridge fuel” to renewables that obfuscate its emissions. They have also publicly expressed support for the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement but internally acknowledged those goals are not compatible with their long-term business strategies, according to the report.

The committee also alleges that the industry publicly expresses support for climate legislation and regulations, while either privately lobbying against them or relying on trade groups to do that work. This echoes comments made by former ExxonMobil lobbyist Keith McCoy, who told an undercover activist in 2021 that the company “aggressively [fought] against some of the science” on climate change. The company has said McCoy did not speak for it in the interview.

Moreover, the report alleges that ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, API and the Chamber continually obstructed the probe.

“For decades, the fossil fuel industry has known about the economic and climate harms of its products but has deceived the American public to keep collecting more than $600 billion each year in subsidies while raking in record-breaking profits,” Senate Budget Committee Chair Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said in a statement. “As this joint report makes clear, the industry’s outright denial of climate change has evolved into a green-seeming cover for its ongoing covert operation—a campaign of deception, disinformation, and doublespeak waged using dark money, phony front groups, false economics, and relentless exertion of political influence—to block climate progress.”

The report comes the day before the Budget Committee is set to hold hearings on its findings, with House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) among the scheduled witnesses.

Several of the oil companies and entities named in the report pushed back against its characterizations. A Shell spokesperson told The Hill that “[o]f the nearly 90-thousand documents provided to the Committee, the handful they chose to highlight are evidence of Shell’s efforts to set realistic targets, hi-grade its portfolio and meaningfully participate in the energy transition.”

An ExxonMobil spokesperson said the report contained “tired allegations that have already been publicly addressed through previous Congressional hearings on the same topic and litigation in the courts.”

“At a time of persistent inflation and geopolitical instability, our nation needs more American energy – including more oil and natural gas – and less unfounded election year rhetoric,” an API spokesperson told The Hill. A Chevron spokesperson told The Hill the company defers to the API’s statement.

The Hill has reached out to the Chamber and the other companies named in the report for comment.

Jamie Roberts

By Jamie Roberts

Jamie is an award-winning investigative journalist with a focus on uncovering corruption and advocating for social justice. With over a decade of experience in the field, Jamie's work has been instrumental in bringing about positive change in various communities.

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2 thoughts on “Senate Democrats: Oil companies pivoted from climate denial to ‘deception, disinformation, and doublespeak’”
  1. Do the oil companies have any plans to align their public promises with their actual business strategies in the future?

  2. Do you think the shift in strategy by major oil companies from outright denial to “deception, disinformation, and doublespeak” will have significant implications on climate action?

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