On Oct. 28, 2021, members of the House Oversight Committee confronted the executives of four major oil companies about climate change, in a climate disinformation hearing. They exposed decades of deliberately disseminated misinformation regarding how fossil fuels affect the planet. As expected, BP, Shell, Chevron, and Exxon have had quite a bit to say, though only a scant portion of it was the truth.
According to The Los Angeles Times, when it was over, congresswoman Carolyn Maloney spoke earnestly about what she had heard, saying, “I was disappointed that we heard much of the same denial and deflection that we’ve heard before.” Judging by the quotes we’ve gathered below, this type of dissembling is par for the course for individuals in the petroleum industry.
What has BP said about climate change?
According to the official BP sustainability website, BP is allegedly doing all that it can to transition to net-zero carbon emissions. This sentiment was echoed by BP America CEO, David Lawler, in his testimony at the climate disinformation hearing in October 2021. “In 2020, BP established a new purpose: reimagining energy for people and our planet. At the same time, we announced a new ambition: to become a net-zero company by 2050 or sooner and to help the world get to net zero.”
This attitude is not new for BP. According to Follow the Money, former BP CEO John Browne was the first head of a major oil company to directly and publicly discuss climate change back in 1997. Browne said it was “Unwise and potentially dangerous to ignore the possibility of catastrophic climate change,” adding “If we are all to take responsibility for the future of our planet, then it falls to us to begin to take precautionary action now.”
Whether or not BP will keep to these promises remains to be seen, but considering that it knew back in 1997 and did nothing substantial between now and then, we’re not hopeful.
What has Chevron said about climate change?
Chevron’s official word on climate change, according to its own sustainability page, is that the company “supports the Paris Agreement and is committed to addressing climate change while continuing to deliver energy that supports society. Climate policy should achieve emissions reductions as efficiently and effectively as possible, at the least cost to economies.”
These limp platitudes are compounded by an additional and equally absurd statement, which offers a "solution" to the problem. It indicates that Chevron “supports well-designed climate policies and believes a price on carbon is the most efficient mechanism to harness market forces to reduce emissions.”
At the climate disinformation hearing, Chevron CEO Michael Wirth openly denied misleading the public on climate change stating that Chevron’s “views on climate change have developed over time... any suggestion that Chevron has engaged in an effort to spread disinformation and mislead the public on these complex issues is simply wrong,” according to a report from The Los Angeles Times.
What has Exxon said about climate change?
The ExxonKnew scandal made headlines for months when the hashtag hit the Internet for the first time, and the company has openly denied its responsibility for misleading the world about the dangers of climate change ever since.
According to Roll Call, Exxon CEO Darren Woods assured congresswoman Carolyn Maloney during the climate disinformation hearing that their "understanding of the science has been aligned with the consensus of the scientific community as far back as 20 years ago." AP News reports that he later added the assertion that Exxon “has long acknowledged the reality and risks of climate change, and it has devoted significant resources to addressing those risks.″
True to form, the Exxon CEO added a bit of petulance to his argument. “As science has evolved and developed, our understanding has evolved and developed, as has our work and position on the space. I don’t think it’s fair to judge something 25 years ago with what we’ve learned since,” he said.
What has Shell said about climate change?
Like BP, the people behind Shell recognized the threat of climate change decades ago and have allegedly been working to find a solution ever since. Unlike BP, executives have been somewhat unabashed about the fact that they knew and lied about it. According to Time, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden was somewhat flippant in his admission. “Yeah, we knew. Everybody knew, and somehow we all ignored it," he said at the time.
Shell Oil president, Gretchen Watkins, who was questioned at the climate information hearing didn't admit to anything that might incriminate the company. According to CNN, she also refused the committee’s request to pledge that Shell would not spend any money to oppose efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. When asked about climate change she said simply, “I agree that this is a defining challenge for our generation, absolutely."
However, she clearly has no plans to do anything about it.