Oil companies have internally rejected swift climate action, House panel finds

Some of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies have internally dismissed the need to quickly switch to renewables and cut global warming emissions, despite coming forward publicly as concerned about the climate crisis, a researcher has found. committee of the United States House of Representatives.

Documents obtained from companies such as Exxon, Shell, BP and Chevron show that the fossil fuel industry ‘doesn’t really have any plans to clean up its act and is moving forward with plans to pump more fuels dirty for decades to come,” said Carolyn Maloney, the chair of the House Oversight Committee, which has investigated the sector for the past year.

The committee accused the oil companies of a “long-running greenwashing campaign” by embarking on major new projects to extract and burn fossil fuels despite their efforts to go green.

In reality, the executives, as the documents show, scoffed at the need to cut emissions, disparaged climate activists, and strove to get US government tax credits for carbon-capturing projects that would allow them to continue their activities as usual. Maloney, a Democrat, said “these companies know their climate promises fall short, but they are prioritizing the record profits of big oil over the human costs of climate change.”

Ro Khanna, another Democrat who sits on the committee, said the industry’s approach was “bullying” of critics, part of a “cynical strategy” to avoid acting in the face of urgency climatic. He added that the committee will forward the documents to “other entities”, citing the possibility of charges being brought by the US Department of Justice.

Khanna dismissed claims by Republicans that the Democratic-led committee had engaged in some sort of corporate witch hunt. “The industry was the one that kept making false claims about climate change and climate legislation,” he said. “Our goal is to get them to stop engaging in climate misinformation.”

Several of the company’s executives appeared before the committee, where they were accused that their companies had known about the dangers of the climate crisis for decades, only to hide it from the public. Darren Woods, chief executive of Exxon, said last year that his company’s claims about climate change were “in line with science” at the time.

“Oil and gas will continue to be needed for the foreseeable future,” Woods added in his testimony before the committee. “We currently do not have adequate alternative energy sources.”

Exxon, like most other major oil companies, has said it supports the Paris climate accords, where governments agreed not to allow the global temperature to rise 1.5C or more in the above pre-industrial times to help avoid worsening heat waves, droughts, floods and other disastrous events. implications.

Privately, however, these companies have downplayed any need to reduce their fossil fuel activity and even increase it, the committee found.

Internal BP documents in 2017 show that the company intends to “significantly increase development in regions with oil potential” and to prioritize projects in current basins that generate the highest rate of return”.

A BP executive later claimed in an internal email that the company had “no obligation to minimize GHG emissions”. [greenhouse gas] while another admitted that none of its fossil fuel divestments “might not directly lead to absolute global emissions reductions”.

Industry insiders communicated with Exxon consultants over doubts about the veracity of climate science, the documents show, while a strategy slide presented to Chevron’s board by its chief executive , Mike Wirth, says the company must “continue to invest” in fossil fuels. even if others are pulling out of oil and gas.

A tweet from Shell posted in 2020 asking others what they could do to reduce emissions prompted a torrent of ridicule from Twitter users. A corporate communications manager wrote privately that the criticism that the tweet “enlightened” the public was “not entirely unfounded” and that the tweet was “fairly tone-deaf”. He added: “We are, after all, in a tweet like this implying that others have to sacrifice without focusing on ourselves.”

The UK-based oil company has also scorned climate activists, with a company communications specialist emailing in 2019 that he wished “bed bugs” at the Sunrise Movement, a US climate group led by young people.

Climate activists said the committee’s work showed the fossil fuel industry continued to lie about global warming while claiming action on the issue.

“The main revelation of this report is that the big oil companies have no intention of meeting their climate commitments,” said Jamie Henn, director of Fossil Free Media.

“He is not switching to clean energy, he is doubling his consumption of methane gas and actively lobbying against renewable energy solutions. It’s tobacco’s big playbook again: pretend you care about a problem, but carry on with your deadly business as usual.

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