Ahead of an October 28 hearing into the matter, House Democrats in Washington have sent letters to four of America’s biggest fossils, the American Petroleum Institute (API), and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, looking into the role they played in thwarting public understanding of climate change.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform and its environment subcommittee are seeking testimony from the heads of BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell, as well as the API and the U.S. Chamber, reports Bloomberg Green.
The letters express “deep” concern about the “massive profits” the fossils have coffered “while contributing to climate change that is devastating American communities, costing taxpayers billions of dollars, and ravaging the natural world,” plus reports of “a coordinated effort to spread disinformation to mislead the public and prevent crucial action to address climate change.”
The response from Big Oil/Big Business has so far ranged from silence to indignation, with Chevron ignoring Bloomberg’s requests for comment and Exxon acknowledging only that it had received a letter. The Chamber of Congress offered the prickly rebuke that “the leadership of the Committee has a fundamental misunderstanding of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s positions on climate change and our work to forge climate solutions.”
Insisting that the Chamber recognizes anthropogenic climate change and that “inaction on climate is not an option,” a spokesperson appeared to frame the request for information as a partisan action. “We know that durable policy is made through bipartisan action, so we’ve been working hard with Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to enact climate solutions, most notably the bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes historic investments in sustainable infrastructure,” They said.
The API said it would “welcome the opportunity to testify again before the House Oversight Committee and advance our priorities of pricing carbon, regulating methane, and reliably producing American energy,” while Shell declared its support for “the Paris Agreement and the need for society to transition to a lower carbon future, while extending the economic and social benefits of energy access to everyone.” BP said its work on carbon pricing and methane “will support the energy transition, the Paris climate agreement and a net-zero world.”
None of the fossils had much to say about their past actions to deny the reality of climate change and obstruct action toward solutions. But committee members were rather more focused in their information request.
“Among the documents being sought are communications from company executives on climate science, climate change, clean energy, and the role of fossil fuel in causing climate change,” Bloomberg writes. “In addition to putting corporate PR under a microscope, the investigation will also be looking into specific communications with Washington and the White House.”
The House committee “is also seeking documents and communications related to how much funding the companies have provided to Washington trade groups and how that money was used,” the news agency adds.
While acknowledging the move to grill fossil executives as “the first really big step we’ve seen in the government tackling climate information,” a post on Hot Take points out that such disinformation “could not, would not have worked without the ability to use the media as a tool to further it.”