Oil companies push back against lawmakers’ greenwashing, disinformation claims

A report from the House Oversight Committee criticized corporations including Chevron, Exxon, Shell, BP and API for inauthenticity in transitioning to clean energy.

(Photo credit: Getty Images).

WASHINGTON: Exxon, Shell and the American Petroleum Institute have argued against claims made by Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s latest report on the fossil-fuel industry. 

The report, which was released on Friday, targeted Chevron, Exxon, Shell, BP and API for engaging in greenwashing to obscure long-term investments in fossil fuels and for failure to significantly reduce emissions. 

Based on internal documents and information from the aforementioned corporations, the committee said that, despite claiming fossil fuel as a “bridge fuel” to cleaner sources of energy, “Big Oil” has doubled down on long-term reliance on fossil fuel, with “no intention” of taking real actions to move towards clean energy. 

House Democrats also asserted that the industry’s “inadequate climate pledges and commitment to emissions reductions” are designed to provide cover so that Big Oil can continue selling fossil fuels for billions of dollars. It also said that fossil fuel companies have pursued a “resist and block” strategy on climate regulations, only cutting emissions where it makes commercial sense.

“Today’s new evidence makes clear that these companies know their climate pledges are inadequate, but are prioritizing Big Oil’s record profits over the human costs of climate change,” said Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) chairwoman of the Oversight Committee. 

Todd Spitler, Exxon’s corporate media relations senior advisor, said via email that the committee’s report “has sought to misrepresent ExxonMobil’s position on climate science, and its support for effective policy solutions, by recasting well intended, internal policy debates as an attempted company disinformation campaign.”

“If specific members of the committee are so certain they’re right, why did they have to take so many things out of context to prove their point?” Spitler added. 

Curtis Smith, Shell’s media manager for the U.S. and Brazil, echoed Spitler’s statement, stating that the committee’s investigation “failed on all fronts to uncover evidence of a climate disinformation campaign.”

“In fact, the handful of subpoenaed documents the committee chose to highlight from Shell are evidence of the company’s extensive efforts to set aggressive targets, transform its portfolio and meaningfully participate in the ongoing energy transition,” Smith added. “Within that pursuit are challenging internal and external discussions that signal Shell’s intent to form partnerships and share pathways we deem critical to becoming a net-zero energy business.”

API SVP Megan Bloomgren said in an emailed statement that “our industry is focused on continuing to produce affordable, reliable energy while tackling the climate challenge, and any allegations to the contrary are false.”

Bloomgren added that the U.S. natural gas and oil industry has contributed to “significant progress” the country has made in reducing CO2 emissions. 

“API will continue to work with policymakers on both sides of the aisle for policies that support industry innovation and further the progress we’ve made on emissions reductions,” she said. 

A BP spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment. A Chevron representative declined to comment. 

One of the lawmakers’ other accusations was that fossil fuel entities, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, refused to properly “comply with the committee’s subpoenas.”

Spitler said that Exxon CEO Darren Woods “has testified under oath on this subject during two all-day Congressional hearings before two separate committees,” and that the company has “been in regular communication with the committee for over a year,” providing staff with “more than 1 million pages of documents, including board materials and internal communications.”

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