US lawmakers pressure oil companies to quit trading group over climate policies

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Through Kevin Crowley and David Wethe to 10/28/2021

HOUSTON (Bloomberg) – Executives of Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc have been urged by U.S. lawmakers to ditch the oil industry’s largest trading group and cut funds to any group that casts doubt on climate science.

In a congressional hearing on Thursday, U.S. Representative Ro Khanna pressured Gretchen Watkins, president of Shell’s U.S. unit, and other executives to quit the American Petroleum Institute, which he said , actively opposes government subsidies for electric vehicles.

They refused to make such a commitment. The demand came during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing in which leaders were asked what they knew about the causes of global warming and when, and if they were working to undermine climate protection efforts.

This is the first time since BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico more than a decade ago that industry leaders have come together before lawmakers in the nation’s capital. Campaigners hope they can extract statements that will help transform public opinion and aid fossil fuel lawsuits, as happened with Big Tobacco in the 1990s.

“They obviously lie like tobacco executives,” said US Representative Carolyn Maloney, the New York Democrat who chairs the committee, after a particularly tense exchange with Exxon CEO Darren Woods.

Climate bill

The inquiry comes as President Joe Biden strives to keep key climate policies in his spending bill, which is crucial to the implementation of the infrastructure goals that were the cornerstone of his campaign. Democrats and moderate Republicans are blocking much of Biden’s climate efforts amid deep divisions within his own party ahead of a key climate summit in Glasgow next week.

As such, Democrats are keen to use the hearing to step up public pressure on the fossil fuel industry in hopes of pushing through tougher climate provisions.

Maloney presented Exxon’s Woods with a series of documents and statements from Exxon’s own scientists that fossil fuels were the primary human cause of climate change as early as 1978 and contrasted them with the company’s public statements.

She particularly highlighted the skeptical comments by former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond on the state of climate science in the 1990s.

“No, I wouldn’t agree that there was an inconsistency,” Woods said. Exxon’s scientific understanding was “fully consistent” with the wider scientific community and has evolved over time, he said. “I don’t think it’s fair to judge something 25 years ago with what we’ve learned since.”

But that did not satisfy Maloney, who played a clip of ex-Exxon lobbyist Keith McCoy, filmed by Greenpeace, saying the company was working with “ghost groups” to fight climate science.

Shell’s Watkins told lawmakers that as early as 1991 the company raised concerns about climate change and created an educational film on the subject for schools and universities.

“Shell has long advocated for government policies that will reduce demand for fossil fuels, stimulate innovation in clean energy technologies, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure access to reliable and affordable energy.” Watkins said in written testimony.

Lawmakers last month called for internal documents and communications related to climate disinformation, but “to date not all fossil fuel entities have adequately responded to the Committee’s request,” the Committee said. Committee on its website.


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