US Lawmakers Condemn Oil Industry’s ‘Deception’ on Climate Action

(Bloomberg) -- Democratic lawmakers in the US lambasted oil companies in a new report on Tuesday, claiming that the industry has engaged in “an elaborate campaign of deception and doublespeak” to forestall meaningful climate action and sustain their outsized profits.

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The report marks the completion of an investigation started nearly three years ago by Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, which subpoenaed documents from Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., Shell Plc, BP Plc, the American Petroleum Institute, and the US Chamber of Commerce.

The report, which was produced in conjunction with Democrats on the Senate’s budget committee, accused oil companies of a range of misdeeds, such as offering public support for the Paris climate agreement while internally acknowledging their business models were at odds with such a scenario. It also said the oil companies erroneously touted gas as a bridge fuel to a cleaner future while ignoring its significant climate impacts; and it said the industry poured money into universities around the world to win support for the idea of fossil fuels being part of an energy transition.

“Big Oil continues to conceal the facts about their business model and obscure the actual dangers of fossil fuels, including natural gas, in order to block the climate action we need,” Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Despite knowing about the devastating effects of their oil and gas products on the planet for decades, the industry has always prioritized its bottom line and chosen low-road PR tactics over a high-road commitment to addressing the crisis.”

The lawmakers also released hundreds of documents accompanying the report ahead of a Senate Budget Committee hearing Wednesday on “Big Oil’s Evolving Efforts to Avoid Accountability for Climate Change.” Among those slated to appear is Raskin, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee, which previously published reports alleging that oil companies were spreading climate disinformation and preventing action on climate change.

A Shell spokesman said in a statement that the documents showcased by the committee “are evidence of Shell’s efforts to set realistic targets, hi-grade its portfolio and meaningfully participate in the energy transition.” Chevron, BP and API didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment.

In Tuesday’s report, the lawmakers also criticized oil companies for publicly touting costly and futuristic climate solutions like algae biofuels and carbon sequestration, while not investing enough to bring these technologies to fruition. It singled out Exxon, which, for years, trumpeted its support for algae in television commercials and promised it could produce 10,000 barrels a day by 2025. Exxon quietly abandoned the effort last year, as first reported by Bloomberg Green.

Exxon officials told Bloomberg Green last year that the company was pulling back on algae to focus on other low-carbon technologies like carbon capture, hydrogen and biofuels, which the company deemed were more ready for deployment.

A spokesman for Exxon said: “These are tired allegations that have already been publicly addressed through previous Congressional hearings on the same topic and litigation in the courts. As we have said time and time again, climate change is real.”

--With assistance from Ari Natter and Kevin Crowley.

(Updates with comment from Exxon in the 9th paragraph.)

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