The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Karl Frisch, 202-580-5813

Five Questions Big Oil CEOs Must Answer Tomorrow

In anticipation of tomorrow's House Oversight Committee hearing on Big Oil's ongoing campaign to spread disinformation and manipulate Americans against widely-popular, commonsense climate soluti

In anticipation of tomorrow's House Oversight Committee hearing on Big Oil's ongoing campaign to spread disinformation and manipulate Americans against widely-popular, commonsense climate solutions, government watchdog Accountable.US called on the CEOs who will testify to finally be honest with lawmakers and the American people.
"For too long, oil companies have skirted responsibility for their harmful campaign of disinformation aimed at swaying Americans against commonsense policies to protect public lands and fight the climate crisis," said Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US. "It shouldn't have taken several dodged hearings and a subpoena threat for these executives to come before Congress. With the American people watching, will these executives own up to their misinformation, or keep trying to hide behind lies and spin?"
Thursday's hearing is one part of the committee's larger investigation into leading oil and gas companies' efforts to misinform the American public. Accountable.US called on the CEOs who will testify to answer the following questions about their companies' demonstrated history of hypocrisy:
1. The oil and gas industry has repeatedly claimed that it didn't need any bailouts during the pandemic. But in reality, its lobbying groups demanded tax breaks for the industry in the CARES Act, and reports show that oil and gas companies got at least $3.1 billion in pandemic bailout money. Why do you continue to argue that your industry did not receive federal pandemic support when the facts clearly prove otherwise?
In March 2020, major oil industry lobbying group the American Petroleum Institute (API) claimed the oil industry didn't need any pandemic bailouts, with the group's CEO, Mike Sommers, even going as far as to write an op-ed in the Washington Examiner to underscore the point. As recently as last month, Sommers was still hammering this line, stating during a podcast appearance that "even in the worst parts of that pandemic, you didn't see our industry, you know, asking for bailouts. In fact, we were fighting bailouts."
But this is far from the truth: API lobbied for CARES Act tax breaks in the early days of the pandemic, and government watchdog Accountable.US found that API's member companies got $3.1 billion in value from various pandemic aid programs.
2. Oil and gas company shareholders have repeatedly sought to vote on climate change initiatives within the company and have been met with opposition from companies. How can you claim to care about fighting climate change while opposing efforts to do so from your own shareholders?
Even as major oil and gas companies have attempted to greenwash their reputations to the public, behind the scenes, these companies are working to fight even their own shareholders on supporting climate initiatives and making substantive changes to their operations.
Exxon, BP, Chevron, and Shell all opposed shareholder initiatives to combat climate change, including efforts to bring their companies' policies in line with goals and standards set by the Paris Climate Agreement. Exxon went so far as to get the SEC to bar the company's shareholders from voting on a proposal that would have required it to disclose its emission reduction goals.
3. Oil and gas companies have a decades-long history of denying climate science and refuting the link between air pollution and its detrimental effects on people's health -- especially those in majority-Black and Native communities who are disproportionately affected by extractive activities. Do you acknowledge the increased health risk posed by fossil fuel pollution?
A scientist commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute testified before Congress in 1997 calling the link between air pollution and mortality "weak." Around the same time, Exxon published a study claiming there was "no substantive basis" for believing small particle pollution was leading to more deaths despite internal memos noting the dangers of fossil fuel pollution in 1967.
Importantly, this pollution, that continues to this day, disproportionately harms communities of color, especially Black and Native communities. A VICE report earlier this year revealed that over 70% of Chevron and Exxon's air pollution is dumped on people of color. Such exposure to pollutants can lead to adverse and life-threatening health consequences including increased risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, asthma, and more.
4. With more and more research showing that oil, gas, and coal development must be curbed in order to reach emissions goals essential to avoiding a climate catastrophe, how do you square your claims to care about the environment with your plans to increase fossil fuel production?
The International Energy Alliance released a report this year stating there must be no new oil, gas, or coal development to achieve net-zero goals by 2050. The UN released a report calling for fossil fuel production to rapidly fall if we want to avoid "severe climate disruption."
But regardless of the science and evidence, from 2019 to 2030, ExxonMobil is planning the largest increases in oil and gas production, increasing by 52% and 27% respectively -- even as it attempts to publicly paint itself as a climate steward.
5. Big Oil companies have repeatedly fought for "voluntary" emissions reduction strategies despite ample evidence proving that they aren't nearly as effective in curbing emissions as government mandates. Looking at the industry's record, how can you expect the American people to allow oil and gas companies to continue using voluntary climate mitigation methods when they have consistently proven ineffective?
The American Petroleum Institute proudly touts the effectiveness of voluntary emissions reduction strategies and plans in lieu of government action in order to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis. Yet companies on API's board have been responsible for nearly $38 billion in environmental penalties -- API has rewarded companies days after they have caused environmental disasters.
Additionally, voluntary pledges to reduce flaring have proven ineffective as companies, including BP and Exxon, continued to flare regularly after pledging to stop. Flaring increased annually from 2017 to 2019.

Accountable.US is a nonpartisan watchdog that exposes corruption in public life and holds government officials and corporate special interests accountable by bringing their influence and misconduct to light. In doing so, we make way for policies that advance the interests of all Americans, not just the rich and powerful.