House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., presides during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing to examine a Republican-led Arizona audit of the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona's most populous county, Maricopa, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Pool via AP)

Oil giants deny spreading disinformation on climate change

Oil giants deny spreading disinformation on climate change

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top executives of ExxonMobil and other oil giants denied spreading disinformation about climate change as they sparred Thursday with congressional Democrats over allegations that the industry concealed evidence about the dangers of global warming.

Testifying at a landmark House hearing, ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods said the company “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.

Democrats immediately challenged the statements by Woods and other oil executives, accusing them of engaging in a decades-long, industry-wide campaign to spread disinformation about the contribution of fossil fuels to global warming.

“They are obviously lying like the tobacco executives were,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee.

She was referring to a 1994 hearing with tobacco executives who famously testified that they didn’t believe nicotine was addictive. The reference was one of several to the tobacco hearing as Democrats sought to pin down oil executives on whether they believe in climate change and that burning fossil fuels such as oil contributes to global warming.

Maloney said at the end of the nearly seven-hour hearing that she will issue subpoenas for documents requested by the committee but not furnished by the oil companies.

Republicans accused Democrats of grandstanding over an issue popular with their base as President Joe Biden’s climate agenda teeters in Congress.

Kentucky Rep. James Comer, the top Republican on the oversight panel, called the hearing a “distraction from the crises that the Biden administration’s policies have caused,” including gasoline prices that have risen by $1 per gallon since January.

“The purpose of this hearing is clear: to deliver partisan theater for primetime news,” Comer said.

The hearing 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 fossil fuel industry has had scientific evidence about the dangers of climate change since at least 1977, yet spread denial and doubt about the harm its products cause— undermining science and preventing meaningful action on climate change, Maloney and other Democrats said.

“Do you agree that (climate change) is an existential threat? Yes or no?” Maloney asked Shell Oil President Gretchen Watkins.

“I agree that this is a defining challenge for our generation, absolutely,” Watkins replied.

Watkins, Woods and other oil executives said they agreed with Maloney on the existence and threat posed by climate change, but they refused her request to pledge that their companies would not spend money — either directly or indirectly — to oppose efforts to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

“We’re pledging to advocate for low-carbon policies that do in fact take the company and the world to net-zero” carbon emissions, said BP America CEO David Lawler.

Climate change

 

Hotel heiress and reality star Paris Hilton, flanked by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., left, and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., lends her celebrity to support legislation to establish a bill of rights for children placed in congregate care facilities, at the Capitol on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. Hilton says she was traumatized as a teenager when she was sent by her family to abusive care facilities. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)