Big Oil is greenwashing its image with pledges to cut emissions while preparing massive investments in fossil fuels for decades to come - a move that could “doom global efforts to prevent catastrophic climate change,” Democrats on a U.S. House Oversight Committee said in a new report last week.
Internal documents from Chevron, BP, Shell, and the American Petroleum Institute (API) reviewed by the committee show that “Despite public promises that fossil fuels are merely a ‘bridge fuel’ to cleaner sources of energy, Big Oil is doubling down on long-term reliance on fossil fuels with no intention of taking concrete actions to transition to clean energy,” the report, signed off by Democrats and not one Republican representative, says.
The memo released on Friday is part of an ongoing investigation launched in 2021 over “the reported role of the fossil fuel industry in a long-running, industry-wide campaign to spread disinformation about the role of fossil fuels in causing global warming.”
The documents most recently reviewed and released by the Committee show, the report says, “how the fossil fuel industry “greenwashed” its public image with promises and actions that oil and gas executives knew would not meaningfully reduce emissions, even as the industry moved aggressively to lock in continued fossil fuel production for decades to come—actions that could doom global efforts to prevent catastrophic climate change.”
According to the Committee, “Fossil fuel companies admit privately that they have pursued a strategy to “resist and block” climate regulations, and that they will only cut emissions “where it makes commercial sense,” and that a key part of their climate plans—selling assets to other oil companies—will not actually reduce emissions.”
The lack of meaningful investments and emissions reductions is “particularly outrageous,” considering the record profits the companies have made - nearly $100 billion in combined profits for Exxon, Chevron, Shell, and BP in just the last two quarters, the committee said.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-California), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment, said in a statement, “We cannot tackle the climate crisis until we tackle the climate disinformation crisis. Big Oil has misled the American public for decades about the reality of the climate crisis. It’s past time to hold the entire industry accountable for its role in funding and facilitating that disinformation.”
Commenting on the Committee’s findings, Khanna told NBC News, “The cynicism was breathtaking, and unfortunately, it was quite successful.”
“It’s been a successful PR strategy.”
Khanna is also leading efforts to bring his proposed legislation, the Windfall Profits Tax Act, to the floor in Congress. Democrats urged for a discussion of such a bill as early as in May, but they lost control over the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections in November and, thus, the ability to direct investigations by the House Oversight committees.
President Joe Biden also threatened windfall taxes on oil companies on the eve of the mid-terms when he accused, once again, the industry of “war profiteering” and “not passing on the savings to the pump.”
With the recent decline in U.S. gasoline prices, the rhetoric of blaming the oil industry has subsided at the expense of the Administration taking credit for the falling prices at the pump.
On several occasions, the American Petroleum Institute (API) has issued statements after criticism from the Biden Administration. In one of the most recent from end-October, API President and CEO Mike Sommers said, “Rather than taking credit for price declines and shifting blame for price increases, the Biden administration should get serious about addressing the supply and demand imbalance that has caused higher gas prices and created long-term energy challenges.”
“Oil companies do not set prices—global commodities markets do. Increasing taxes on American energy discourages investment in new production, which is the exact opposite of what is needed. American families and businesses are looking to lawmakers for solutions, not campaign rhetoric.”
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Big Oil has to invest in oil and gas and expand their production capacities if it is to satisfy global demand. But in so doing it is being accused of greenwashing without cutting emissions. And while Big Oil can cut emissions up to a point by reducing flaring, it is virtually impossible to reduce emissions significantly while raising oil and gas production. It is a catch 22 situation with Big Oil damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t.
Oil and gas are projected to continue driving the global economy well into the future. Until alternatives to oil and gas are found, this will remain the case for at least the next 100 years.
Trying to electrify the global economy including agricultural production with a global transition to renewables won’t succeed without major contributions from natural gas and to some extent nuclear power and coal. The reason is the intermittent nature of renewables. Today’s technology won’t allow us to save solar electricity generated in summer for use in winter. Even if greatly ramped up, wind and solar electricity generation would likely be grossly inadequate by themselves to try to operate any kind of economy.
The intermittent wind and solar energy is neither capable of solving today’s energy problems nor is a transition to electric vehicles (EVs) just around the corner.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Global Energy Expert