Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers receives a round of applause

Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) receives a round of applause during a House Energy and Commerce Committee organizational meeting on January 31, 2023.

(Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

As Exxon Touted Record Profits, House GOP Used First Energy Hearing to Parrot Big Oil Lies

"If today was a sign of what's to come, future House Energy and Commerce Committee hearings will be reduced to GOP members regurgitating Big Oil's false talking points."

On the same day that the largest oil company in the United States reported record profits for 2022, Republicans used the first House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing of the new year to promote the further expansion of climate-wrecking fossil fuel production and attack efforts to build out renewable energy infrastructure.

The energy panel is chaired by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the top recipient of oil and gas PAC money in the last election cycle and a longtime advocate of opening U.S. public lands and waters to fossil fuel drilling.

In keeping with her record, Rodgers kicked off Tuesday's hearing by touting the House's passage of legislation that would require the federal government to lease a certain percentage of public lands and waters for fossil fuel extraction for every non-emergency drawdown of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Rodgers touted last week's vote as "bipartisan," but just one House Democrat—Rep. Jared Golden of Maine—joined Republicans in passing the bill, which is unlikely to become law. Climate advocates have warned that, if enacted, the measure "could lock in at least a century of oil drilling."

"We need to be doing more to secure and unleash American energy," Rodgers said Tuesday, attacking so-called "rush-to-green" policies and falsely blaming Europe's energy crisis on renewables.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), chair of the panel's subcommittee on energy, climate, and grid security, toed a similar line during his opening remarks at Tuesday's hearing, decrying "the Democrats' 'rush-to-green policies'" and condemning science-backed calls to phase out fossil fuels.

Duncan also praised surging oil exports, which experts say have driven up costs for U.S. consumers while padding the profits of fossil fuel giants and contributing to the rise of global carbon emissions.

Jordan Schreiber, the director of energy and environment with the progressive watchdog group Accountable.US, said in a statement Tuesday that "if today was a sign of what's to come, future House Energy and Commerce Committee hearings will be reduced to GOP members regurgitating Big Oil's false talking points while openly advocating for energy policies that favor wealthy executives and shareholders over their own constituents."

The hearing began hours after ExxonMobil reported a record-shattering $56 billion in profits for the full year of 2022.

The corporation, whose scientists accurately predicted global warming decades ago as the company publicly lied about climate change, said it distributed nearly $30 billion to shareholders last year as U.S. households struggled to pay their energy bills.

Days before Exxon's earnings release, Chevron—the second-largest oil company in the U.S. by market cap—reported $35.5 billion in 2022 profits, an all-time high for the company.

"Even on a day when three of the country's largest oil companies posted a whopping $82.5 billion in profits for 2022, thanks to the unrelenting price gouging of American consumers, the MAGA majority can not stop themselves from doing the industry’s bidding," said Schreiber, referring to the combined profits of Exxon, Marathon Petroleum, and Phillips 66.

During Tuesday's hearing, Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee slammed their Republican colleagues for prioritizing the interests of the ultra-profitable fossil fuel industry over U.S. consumers and the environment.

"We've all heard the slogans: 'Drill baby, drill,' 'energy dominance,' and now 'energy expansion,'" said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.). "But don't be fooled. These policies will not expand our potential for new renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, and will only increase our dependence on oil and gas."

"They're nothing more than a giveaway to the oil industry," DeGette said of the House GOP's fossil fuel-centered energy agenda.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the committee, pushed back on the GOP narrative that energy prices are high because the Biden administration is hindering the oil and gas industry's ability to drill—something that climate groups have pressured the administration to do, with little success.

"Republicans have pushed this idea that somehow Big Oil wanted to pump more but couldn't," said Pallone. "In reality, they wanted to keep the price artificially high."

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