As activists continue to push the misleading #ExxonKnew narrative, energy companies have continued to make strides on researching and combating climate change, and Congress is taking notice. This week, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on the Environment held a hearing examining the history of the scientific consensus around climate change and consequences of policy inaction, which revealed bipartisan praise for companies’ leadership on reducing emissions.
Timothy Wirth, a former Democratic Senator from Colorado who organized the first congressional hearing on climate change in 1988, credited energy companies with facilitating policy cooperation and turning the tide of inaction on climate change in recent years:
“They realized that there was a real climate crisis coming. They realized that there were great economic opportunities there. And they realized they had to get their industries more deeply involved in the public policy process. This occurred or it didn’t happen overnight as you can imagine. But these industries – many of them – became very involved, and I would argue, very helpful in turning the corner away from the world of confrontation back toward a greater time – a time of greater cooperation.”
Despite copious evidence to the contrary, activists continue to maintain that fossil fuel companies had reached firm conclusions about climate change in the 1970’s, somehow kept this information secret from the public, and have since continued to sow doubt about the issue. But, the information #ExxonKnew activists have claimed was hidden by ExxonMobil was publicly available in libraries and online in peer-reviewed publications. In addition, ExxonMobil’s scientists have participated in the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since its inception and were involved in the National Academy of Sciences review of the third U.S. National Climate Assessment Report, and Shell was producing educational videos about the dangers of climate change in the 1990’s.
Coordinated action by activists isn’t motivated by noble attempts to push for action combatting climate change, but rather a broader effort to shut down an industry that employs thousands of Americans, pumps billions into our economy, and has a unique capacity to conduct cutting edge research and broadly deploy emission-saving technologies.
As outlined in a leaked strategy memo from a secret meeting at the Rockefeller Family Fund, activists seek to “delegitimize Exxon” and force public officials to dissociate themselves financially from energy companies. Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia professor who advocates for population control and alleged that the victims of Hurricane Harvey were responsible for the disaster, attempted to use these tactics during Tuesday’s hearing, attacking Republican members of the subcommittee for accepting donations from oil and gas companies. Of course, Sachs neglected to mention that anti-fossil fuel activist Tom Steyer funneled almost twice as much to two Democratic committee members alone.
During the hearing, Chairman Harley Rouda (D-Calif.) criticized efforts to demonize oil and gas companies, calling on his colleagues to work with energy producers:
“I’d also like to point out that I, too, Mr. Higgins, am thankful for the attempts and direction that the energy companies are leading in embracing clean energies and renewable energies. But as they pointed out from their own studies from the 1970’s and 1980’s, we need to do more, and we need to do more sooner. And that is really the goal of these hearings is to move in that direction, not to have discussions about eliminating industries but looking at how these industries can help transform our economy and the world’s economy to clean energies and renewable energies.”
In fact, thanks to technological advancements by energy companies, natural gas helped prevent 40 million tons of CO2 emissions in the U.S. in 2018. The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, comprised of 13 of the world’s Oil Majors has invested over $1 billion to accelerate the development of low emission technologies, half of which is dedicated to new carbon capture and storage. ExxonMobil’s carbon capture investments alone remove 7 million tons of C02 from the atmosphere per year. The industry reduced methane emissions by 8 percent in 2017, even as it increases natural gas production to meet growing demand, improving our energy security and helping to provide cleaner energy to countries across the globe.
The coordinated lawsuits across the country fly in the face of Chairman Rouda and Senator Wirth’s statements and industry advancement, attacking companies’ participation in the political process and relying on debunked studies to support their goal of shutting down the very sector that powers the world economy.