At Historic Hearing, Fossil Fuel Executives Admit Climate Crisis Is an “Urgent” Threat

Oct 28, 2021
Press Release
CEOs Refuse to Take Responsibility for Decades of Disinformation Chairwoman Maloney Announces Intent to Subpoena Fossil Fuel Companies for Withheld Documents

Washington, D.C. (Oct. 28, 2021)— Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Ro Khanna, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Environment, held a hearing where top fossil fuel and industry executives testified together under oath for the first time about their companies’ roles in causing the climate crisis and their efforts to cover it up. 

 

Ahead of the hearing, Chairwoman Maloney released a new staff analysis of fossil fuel industry lobbying data, showing that although the industry publicly pledges support for climate reforms, they devote only a small fraction of their lobbying resources to supporting climate measures behind closed doors.   

 

At the hearing, Chairwoman Maloney announced her intent to issue subpoenas to ExxonMobil, BP America, Chevron, Shell Oil, the American Petroleum Institute (API), and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for key documents the entities failed to produce in the Committee’s investigation into the fossil fuel industry’s climate disinformation campaign. 

 

The Committee heard testimony from Darren Woods, CEO of ExxonMobil; Michael Wirth, CEO of Chevron; David Lawler, CEO of BP America; Gretchen Watkins, President of Shell Oil; Mike Sommers, President of the API; and Suzanne Clark, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

 

The Fossil Fuel executives did not dispute that man-made climate change is a “code red for humanity,” but refused to take responsibility for decades of disinformation and would not pledge to end spending to block climate action.

 

  • In response to questioning from Chairwoman Maloney, fossil fuel CEOs admitted that climate change is real, that it is caused by human activities, that the burning of fossil fuels contributes to climate change, and that climate change represents an existential threat to the planet. 

 

  • Chairwoman Maloney asked the fossil fuel CEOs if they would turn over a new leaf and pledge to “no longer spend any money directly or indirectly to oppose efforts to reduce emissions and address climate change.”  Several CEOs refused to take the pledge.  

 

  • Under questioning from Chairman Khanna, Mr. Woods of Exxon admitted that statements made by Exxon’s CEO in 2002 that “science does not establish the linkage between fossil fuels and global warming” are scientifically inaccurate.  However, Mr. Woods refused to apologize for this past disinformation, even though it contradicted the views expressed by Exxon scientists in internal communications to company executives. 

 

Members confronted the CEOs with the stark inconsistency between their companies’ purported support for climate policies and their failure to take meaningful action to attain these goals.

 

  • Rep. Khanna asked the CEOs whether they would press API to stop advertising against electric vehicles and methane, policies the companies claim they support.  Both Mr. Lawler of BP America and Ms. Watkins of Shell refused.  None of the witnesses agreed to leave API if the industry group continued advertising and lobbying against these policies.

 

  • Rep. Porter challenged Shell CEO Gretchen Watkins on the fact that Shell spent less than half of its pledged $6 billion commitment to renewable energy between 2017 and 2020, stating:  “This is greenwashing.  Shell is trying to fool people into thinking that it’s addressing the climate crisis, but what it’s actually doing is to continue to put money into fossil fuels.”

 

  • Rep. Sarbanes pressed the CEOs on the number of times they had lobbied for the Paris Agreement versus corporate tax cuts.  Although Mr. Wirth mentioned Chevron’s support for the Paris Agreement nine times in his opening remarks, Rep. Sarbanes pointed out Chevron did not lobby on behalf of the Paris Agreement a single time out of 986 reported instances of legislative lobbying.  In contrast, Chevron lobbied on corporate taxes 144 times. 

 

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117th Congress