Congressional Democrats accused the petroleum industry of paying lip service to climate change Thursday, releasing an analysis that showed little effort by oil majors to advance green policies in Washington.
A memo prepared ahead of Thursday's hearing with Big Oil chief executives said the industry -- while professing to support the Paris Climate Agreement and carbon pricing -- has done virtually no lobbying in Washington to enact policies consistent with those goals.
"The companies appear to be using their praise of the Paris Agreement and carbon pricing to bolster their own public image while they continue to produce billions of barrels of fossil fuel and invest in new oil and gas extraction -- actions that are making the climate crisis worse," said an eight-page memo from the House Oversight Committee.
For example, ExxonMobil reported only one instance of lobbying on the Paris Agreement between 2015 and 2021, while lobbying 74 times against a bill to repeal tax breaks and 36 times on US tax cuts approved in 2017.
Chevron, which like ExxonMobil has publicized its commitment to low-carbon energy, lobbied just eight times on carbon pricing legislation since 2011, less than one percent of its total lobbying over the period, the report said.
Thursday's hearing is titled "Fueling the Climate Crisis: Exposing Big Oil's Disinformation Campaign to Prevent Climate Action."
Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, likened the hearing to a famous 1994 congressional hearing in which leaders of large tobacco testified under oath that nicotine was not addictive.
"I hope that today's hearing represents a turning point for Big Oil," Maloney said. "I hope that today the witnesses will finally own up to the industry's central role in this crisis and become part of the change we need."
In an opening statement to the committee, ExxonMobil Chief Executive Darren Woods said ExxonMobil has been "vocal and transparent" in support of climate policies, but that "there are no easy answers" to address climate change while fueling the economy.
Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said the oil industry was working to address climate change, but that oil and gas production would be needed for the foreseeable future.