For decades, major fossil fuel companies like Exxon, Chevron, Shell, and BP have been able to operate with near-impunity and minimum transparency, all while simultaneously dealing incalculable damage to the environment. If U.S. lawmakers have anything to say about it, however, that time is now over. An upcoming climate disinformation hearing will determine the extent of these companies’ indiscretions and may finally find them accountable for their environmentally-destructive actions, and complicity in the climate crisis.
The climate disinformation hearing will take place on Oct. 28, 2021.
The climate disinformation hearing represents the first time that oil company CEOs and affiliated pro-petroleum organizations will testify about their knowledge of the link between climate change and the burning of fossil fuels. According to Axios, the hearing is the brainchild of Congresspeople Carolyn Maloney (the House Oversight Committee Chairwoman) and Ro Khanna (Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment).
Reps. Maloney and Khanna voiced their concerns about the accusations against oil companies in correspondence with Darren Woods of Exxon Mobile in September 2021. "We are deeply concerned that the fossil fuel industry has reaped massive profits for decades while contributing to climate change that is devastating American communities, costing taxpayers billions of dollars, and ravaging the natural world..."
The letter continued, "We are concerned that these strategies of obfuscation and distraction continue today. Reporting indicates that, facing weak market performance and investor pressure, some large fossil fuel companies have taken public stances in support of action on global warming while continuing efforts in private to block meaningful solutions and legislation."
Four major fossil fuel companies and two lobbying groups are being questioned.
According to Reuters, Reps. Khanna and Maloney sent letters to chief executives of four major fossil fuel companies: Exxon Mobil Corp, Chevron Corp, BP USA, and Royal Dutch Shell Oil Co. CEOs from those companies are expected to come to testify in person, as are representatives from two lobbying groups accused of similar malfeasance: the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Chamber of Commerce. All of those organizations were instructed to submit documents and emails prior to the hearing.
Bethany Aronhalt, a spokesperson for API, stated that her organization is open to discussing several, selective aspects of climate change mitigation, including advancing its priorities of pricing carbon, regulating methane, and reliably producing American energy.
The Chamber of Commerce had a similar take on the matter, saying that inaction on climate change is not an option. The chamber added that it had been working with lawmakers on solutions and specifically referenced President Biden’s $3.5 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill currently in the works.
The discussion links back to the 'Exxon Knew' movement.
Much of the discussion harkens back to allegations that Exxon knew about the link between carbon emissions and climate change as far back as the 1960s, but conspired to obfuscate and mislead consumers and world governments about the truth.
According to Fortune, Rep. Khanna’s focus on Exxon is a direct result of a video in which a senior lobbyist for the company was caught bragging that Exxon had fought climate science through so-called “shadow groups.” The same video references Exxon's undue influence on American senators and Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill.
The hearing could have long term consequences for climate change.
The hope is that by forcing these companies to speak the truth under oath, consumers and politicians will finally see how they have been manipulated by greedy oil corporations for the better part of a century. These companies have worked to prevent serious action against global warming and those misrepresentations have cost our species decades of time that could have been used to fix things.
If all goes well, not only will these companies be held accountable for the damage they have caused, they may be forced to make necessary changes that will improve our current situation. It’s a long shot, of course, but it might be the best hope we have.