Energy & Environment

Oil CEOs defend efforts to address climate crisis in Oversight testimony

Associated Press/ Jacquelyn Martin

CEOs of major oil companies and lobbying groups emphasized their acknowledgment of fossil fuels’ role in climate change and denied covering up the connection in Thursday testimony in front of a House panel.  

Executives from Exxon, Chevron, Shell and BP, as well as leaders from the American Petroleum Institute and U.S. Chamber of Commerce testified before the House Oversight Committee Thursday.

Exxon in particular was in the hot seat after a recording was released in the summer of a company lobbyist Keith McCoy who was speaking to a Greenpeace activist. McCoy, who believed he was addressing a corporate headhunter, said in the recording that the company has “aggressively [fought] against some of the science” and only offered its support for carbon taxation as a “talking point.”

Exxon CEO Darren Woods, who has disavowed McCoy and his comments, told the committee that the company “has long acknowledged the reality and risks of climate change, and it has devoted significant resources to addressing those risks.”

Shell U.S. President Gretchen Watkins also emphasized what she said was the company’s commitment to addressing the climate crisis, saying “meeting the demand for reliable energy – while simultaneously addressing climate change – is a huge undertaking and one of the defining challenges of our time.”

Multiple witnesses touted their institutions’ support for the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, including Watkins and U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Suzanne Clark. Watkins also touted the company’s support of the 2009 Waxman-Markey climate legislation, while Clark cited the Chamber’s backing of the bipartisan infrastructure deal.

The companies’ acknowledgment of fossil fuels’ contributions to climate change is a hot topic for the hearing.

Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Environment Subcommittee Chair Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) have repeatedly pointed to decades-old research by Exxon scientists indicating growing awareness that burning fossil fuels was a major driver of climate change.

In her opening statement, Maloney expressed hope that the hearings represented a “turning point” for “accountability” for the oil industry and specifically paralleled it with the questioning of tobacco executives in the 1990s.

“Twenty-seven years ago, tobacco executives, rather than admitting the truth, they lied, a watershed moment in the public’s understanding” of nicotine addiction, Maloney said.

The witnesses, Khanna added, “have a choice: come clean, admit misrepresentation and stop supporting disinformation, or you can sit there and lie under oath … the question is, did any of your executives mislead the public?”

Updated 1:04 p.m.

Tags Carolyn Maloney Ro Khanna

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