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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12:59 p.m. ET, October 28, 2021

"Are you embarrassed?" Ro Khanna slams Exxon and Chevron for production plans

From CNN's Matt Egan

Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna speaks on Capitol Hill on Thursday, October 28.
Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna speaks on Capitol Hill on Thursday, October 28. (Pool)

Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna urged US oil giants ExxonMobil and Chevron to follow in the footsteps of their European rivals in planning to cut production to address the climate crisis.

“Are you embarrassed as an American company that your production is going up while European counterparts are going down?” Khanna asked Chevron CEO Michael Wirth.

The Chevron boss responded by pointing out that demand for energy is going up around the world.

Khanna cited calls from the United Nations and the International Energy Agency to cut oil and gas production to save the planet.

When Khanna asked if Chevron would commit to lowering production, Wirth declined to do so.

“With all due respect, I’m very proud of our company and what we do,” Wirth said.

Exxon CEO Darren Woods similarly declined to commit to reducing production of oil.

“We are committed to lowering our emissions,” Woods said.

The answers contrasted with those from the executives of BP and Shell, who acknowledged that their companies do plan to reduce production of oil and gas.

Republican Rep. Jim Jordan slammed the line of questioning from Khanna, noting that Democrats have also pushed OPEC to pump more oil to combat high gasoline prices.

“That may be the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” Jordan said. “What does the gentleman want? $8 gasoline?”

12:57 p.m. ET, October 28, 2021

Khanna met with silence after asking oil CEOs to stop funding groups spreading climate denial

From CNN's Ella Nilsen

Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna was met with silence from the oil industry executives when he asked them to tell the American Petroleum Institute and other groups to stop lobbying against electric vehicles and methane regulations – two initiatives the oil companies themselves support. 

“You could do something here,” said Khanna, who chairs the House Oversight Committee's Subcommittee on the Environment. “You can tell them to knock it off for the sake of the planet. You could end that lobbying. Would any of you take that opportunity to look at API and say ‘stop it?’” 

The committee room fell silent. 

“Any of you?” he asked. “Could you commit? Any of you?”

No CEO responded to Khanna’s question. 

The Democrat from California also asked fossil fuel companies to commit to having an independent audit to verify none of their funding was going toward groups spreading climate denial, and was again met with silence.  

Many oil companies are members of the American Petroleum Institute, which has been lobbying against certain initiatives that are part of President Joe Biden’s economic and climate agenda framework.

Khanna later asked Shell Oil president Gretchen Watkins to commit to no longer funding “any group that’s going to engage in climate disinformation.” 

“Chairman Khanna, what I’ll commit to is continuing to be an active member of the API,” Watkins said. 

Chevron Corporation CEO Michael Wirth said, “We don’t control and may not always agree with the positions taken or statements made by industry groups and other organizations. We engage in constructive dialogue.” 

12:45 p.m. ET, October 28, 2021

Rep. Khanna asks ExxonMobil CEO to admit to "mistake"

From CNN's Angela Fritz

Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna confronted ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods on research the company had as early as 1977, which said the most likely cause of climate change was through the burning of fossil fuels.

Woods agreed with that conclusion.

He then pivoted to something former ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond said in 2002, that "he does not believe 'that the science establishes the linkage between fossil fuels and warming.'"

"I really don't want to dwell on the past," Khanna said, "but in the spirit of giving you the chance to turn the page for the company, I assume you would acknowledge that Mr. Raymond's statement was a mistake, and the company regrets it, correct?"

"I don't think it's fair to judge something 45 years ago," Woods replied.

3:09 p.m. ET, October 28, 2021

Democrats play video of ExxonMobil lobbyist saying they "aggressively" fought against some climate science 

From CNN's Ella Nilsen

House Oversight Committee Carolyn Maloney played a video of former ExxonMobil lobbyist Keith McCoy saying the company “aggressively” fought back against some climate science. 

“Did we aggressively fight against some of the science? Yes,” McCoy said in a video that was secretly recorded by climate activist group Greenpeace earlier this year. “Did we hide our science? Absolutely not. Did we join some of these shadow groups to work against some of the early efforts? Yes, that’s true. But there’s nothing illegal about that.”  

McCoy added Exxon was “looking out for our investments.” 

Maloney said that oil companies disinformation on climate science has continued more recently, playing the McCoy video to underscore that point. 

“Our witnesses today would like you to think that their actions I have laid out and put in the record are ancient history, but they’re not,” Maloney said.  


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.