Oil executives testify about climate disinformation

By Ella Nilsen, Aditi Sangal, Angela Fritz, Meg Wagner and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 5:21 p.m. ET, October 28, 2021
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12:16 p.m. ET, October 28, 2021

Maloney presses Exxon CEO on inconsistencies between its own science and its public statements

Angela Fritz

 House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney speaks during the hearing on Thursday, October 28.
 House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney speaks during the hearing on Thursday, October 28. (Pool)

Maloney pressed ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods on public statements that the company's former CEO, Lee Raymond, made in the mid-1990s, versus what Exxon's own scientists were reporting to the company.

Maloney: "As the world was debating an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, known as the Kyoto Protocol, here's what Mr. Raymond said in 1996, and I quote: 'Currently, the scientific evidence is inconclusive as to whether human activities are having a sig effect on the global climate,' end quote."

Maloney shared what she called a "secret briefing" from Exxon scientists in 1978 that said: "There's a general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through car dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels."

She asked Woods whether the former CEO's remarks were inconsistent with the views of Exxon's scientists.

Woods responded: "No, I do not agree that there was an inconsistency. ... And I think our position has continued to evolve with the scientific community."

12:04 p.m. ET, October 28, 2021

The panel was asked if climate change is an existential threat. Here's how they responded.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney asked the six representatives from oil companies and lobbying groups who are testifying in front of Congress:

"Does anyone on the panel disagree with the statement from the United States and the Defense Department that climate change is an existential threat to our existence?"

They responded with silence.

"So, the truth is clear: Climate change is real, burning fossil fuels is the primary cause of this crisis and it is urgent that we fix it. This is the first time each of you has told Congress this ... and it is significant and important," Maloney said.

Immediately beforehand, she asked them questions about the reality of climate change and if burning of fossil fuels is a driving force behind it.

12:03 p.m. ET, October 28, 2021

Former Keystone XL welder concerned about job loss in energy sector

Angela Fritz

Neal Crabtree, a former Keystone XL Pipeline welder.
Neal Crabtree, a former Keystone XL Pipeline welder. (Pool)

Neal Crabtree, a former Keystone XL Pipeline welder, said he lost his job on the project "three hours after President Biden's inauguration."

"Not only did I lose an opportunity for employment on the Keystone, but Im losing employment opportunities because of energy companies seem to be hesitant to plan other needed projects that we need in this country," Crabtree said.

Crabtree expressed concern about Biden's economic and climate package and the way it would affect workers in the energy sector.

"I've spent over 25 years, you know, developing the skills that I have, and I'm compensated well for it. And the government's idea of shutting down my industry and retraining me in another career — it's not realistic," Crabtree said. "I'm too far in life ... It's just not realistic for me."

12:01 p.m. ET, October 28, 2021

US Chamber of Commerce CEO says climate solutions should be bipartisan

From CNN's Ella Nilsen

US Chamber of Commerce CEO Suzanne Clark.
US Chamber of Commerce CEO Suzanne Clark. (Pool)

US Chamber of Commerce CEO Suzanne Clark said that efforts to combat climate change should be ones Democrats and Republicans can agree on.

“The Chamber believes that durable climate policy must be made by Congress and enacted with bipartisan support,” Clark said in her Thursday testimony. “This will help ensure that policy solutions withstand the changing priorities of different presidential administrations. Relying on executive branch regulations that change with each administration creates uncertainty for business that can stifle investment and make it difficult to plan over the long term.” 

Clark said the Chamber supports Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, but did not mention support for the president’s recently released economic and climate agenda framework – which contains $555 billion for climate and clean energy provisions, including over $300 billion in clean energy and electric vehicle tax credits. 

“We advocate for our members’ interests across a wide range of policy areas, including on climate and energy issues, and we promote initiatives that help create jobs and grow our economy,” Clark said.  

11:38 a.m. ET, October 28, 2021

API can't support climate change policies that put "America at a disadvantage," CEO says

American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Mike Sommers.
American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Mike Sommers. (Pool)

American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Mike Sommers said the US oil and natural gas industry "is committed to achieving a lower-carbon future while meeting rising energy demand around the world."

However, he said the API cannot support climate change policies that "put America at a disadvantage – jeopardizing jobs, increasing energy costs, and harming American competitiveness."

"Higher energy prices have a direct impact on Americans’ day-to-day lives because these prices impact manufacturing, packaging, and shipping costs throughout the supply chain, ultimately resulting in higher prices for consumer products," he said Thursday.

"Gasoline and other energy costs are a key pressure point for household budgets. Inadequate energy supplies will likely further strain individual households, erode consumers’ broader purchasing power, and threaten jobs as well as the broader economic recovery, contributing to inflationary pressure," he added in his opening statement.

11:50 a.m. ET, October 28, 2021

Shell Oil president: Meeting energy demand and addressing climate change is a "defining" moment

Shell Oil Company President Gretchen Watkins.
Shell Oil Company President Gretchen Watkins. (Pool)

Shell Oil Company President Gretchen Watkins said the company has been "vocal about the needed energy transition" in her opening statement to lawmakers in the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Meeting energy demand while addressing climate change is "a huge undertaking," Hawkins said.

She said Shell's position on climate change has been publicly documented for nearly three decades.

“Our first sustainability report in 1998 noted that human activity and the use of fossil fuels could affect the climate. Shell has issued a sustainability report every year since, and the subsequent reports have discussed climate change and the challenges that it poses,” Watkins said.  

“Shell has long advocated for governmental policies that will reduce fossil fuel demand, stimulate innovation and cleaner energy technologies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure access to reliable and affordable energy,” she added.

She said the company supports a number of provisions in President Biden's infrastructure bill.

“And today, in announcements made early this morning in Europe, we've announced our intent to reduce our scope one and two absolute emissions by 50% by 2030 on a net basis," she said.

The company will continue to develop fossil fuel energy sources, "yet even here we are seeing an energy transition," she said.

11:30 a.m. ET, October 28, 2021

BP's David Lawler says company will cut oil and gas production by 40% by 2030

Ella Nilsen

President of BP America David Lawler told lawmakers his company plans to reduce its oil and gas production by 40% below 2019 levels by the end of the decade, and get to net-zero by “2050 or sooner.” 

"That is on a scale that no other major energy company is planning to do right now,” Lawler said in his testimony, adding BP America is also ending oil and gas exploration in new countries. “But these steps do not mean that BP is getting out of the oil and gas business.” 

Lawler emphasized the company plans to invest more in low-carbon energy, saying BP will invest $5 billion — nearly a third of its projected capital expenditures – by 2030. Lawler also said the company plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% globally by 2025, and ending routine methane flaring from its natural gas production – a serious contributor to climate change.  

A memo from the House Oversight Committee found the amount oil companies are investing in projects designed to lower their carbon emissions is small. The staff memo shows BP invested about 2.3% into low-carbon projects, more than the less than 1% ExxonMobil reportedly invested into low-carbon projects between the years 2010 and 2018. 

“Why did a company traditionally focused on oil and gas choose this ambition?” Lawler asked. “Because we listened. We listened to society, investors and our employees. We saw the world changing around us. Over the next few decades, trillions of dollars will be invested in replumbing and rewiring the global energy system. We anticipate enormous opportunity in providing the world with the low-carbon energy it needs.” 

11:36 a.m. ET, October 28, 2021

Republican lawmakers question "legitimacy" of the hearing

From CNN's Ella Nilsen

Republicans on the committee questioned the “legitimacy” of Democrats’ hearing on fossil fuel disinformation, saying they should instead call Biden administration officials to testify.  

“When are we going to hold a hearing with the Biden administration cabinet members so we can hold the federal government accountable?” Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, said during his opening statement.  

Comer said that Republicans objected to Democrats’ investigation into fossil fuel companies' disinformation on climate change, saying companies have the right to lobby the federal government.  

Democrats “requested internal documents and communications that these entities had with the federal government lawmakers,” Comer said. “They struck at the very heart of the First Amendment protections that exist for these groups and any American to petition their government. We raised objections to Chairwoman Maloney about the protected nature of these communications and the chilling effect these requests would have on the ability of entities to petition their government.” 

Comer’s concerns were echoed by Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina, the ranking member on the House Oversight Subcommittee on the Environment. Norman blasted the Biden administration’s recently released climate and economic agenda framework, which includes over $300 billion in tax credits to incentivize clean energy and move away from fossil fuels.  

“The oil and gas industry provides good paying jobs that will help Americans reliably heat their houses, power their cars and keep the lights on through the storm when the sun doesn’t shine,” Norman said. “We’re heading down a dangerous path with the Biden administration’s policies.” 

11:26 a.m. ET, October 28, 2021

Chevron executive: "Climate change is real, and the use of fossil fuels contributes to it"

CEO of Chevron Corporation Michael K. Wirth.
CEO of Chevron Corporation Michael K. Wirth. (Pool)

Michael K. Wirth, chief executive officer of Chevron Corporation, said the idea this his company is spreading misinformation about the climate crisis is "simply wrong."

Wirth said Chevron accepts that "climate change is real, and the use of fossil fuels contributes to it."

We are committed to helping address this challenge, he said while speaking to the House Oversight and Reform Committee. "Any suggestion that Chevron is engaged in an effort to spread disinformation and mislead the public on these complex issues is simply wrong."

"We believe the future of energy is lower carbon," he added.