By Timothy Cama - 11/19/15 09:26 AM EST
A group of House Democrats is investigating whether oil and coal companies have lied to the public regarding what they know about climate change.
Following recent news reports that Exxon Mobil Corp. knew as early as the 1970s that oil and natural gas cause global warming but later emphasized doubt about the science, the lawmakers want to see if other companies have a similar history.
“The American people deserve answers from the fossil fuel corporations about their actions to massively deceive the public in regards to climate science,” Lieu and Welch wrote to fellow lawmakers.
“We ask that you join our letter to the fossil fuel executives asking specific questions about their role, both past and present, in hiding and spreading disinformation to both the public and lawmakers alike concerning the science of climate change.”
The letters will soon be sent to Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips Co., BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Peabody Energy Corp.
Sixteen Democrats have so far joined in on the letter.
An energy lobby consultant quipped that the number of signatories shows how little credit the Democrats are giving the investigation.
“Given that only a handful of members are willing to put their names on this letter, it is clear that this effort is falling flat on its face,” the consultant said.
The letter asks the oil and coal companies specific questions about the history of their climate change positions, including when they first knew that fossil fuels cause global warming, what they did with that information and whether they’ve funded or otherwise participated in efforts to deny climate change.
Recent investigations by the Los Angeles Times and InsideClimate News found that Exxon spent millions on climate research in the 1970s and 1980s, only to later sow doubt about the science of climate change in an effort to stop various policies that could hurt fossil fuels.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is formally investigating whether Exxon violated any laws in how it presented what it knew about climate change.
Many of the Democrats signing the letter also signed into efforts earlier this year to find out which fossil fuel companies have funded research intended to disprove climate change.
Republicans and scientists roundly criticized the Democrats for those efforts and accused them of trying to silence climate skepticism.