Top oil executives say not spreading climate change disinformation, House Dem says 'obviously lying'

ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods told House oversight committee company "does not spread disinformation regarding climate change"

Updated: October 28, 2021 - 4:26pm

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Top oil company executives Thursday fended off congressional allegations their industry concealed evidence about the dangers of global warming, but the responses were met with skepticism among House Democrats.

ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods told the House oversight committee his company "does not spread disinformation regarding climate change."

He also said ExxonMobil "has long acknowledged the reality and risks of climate change, and it has devoted significant resources to addressing those risks" and that the company's statements on the matter "are and have always been truthful, fact-based ... and consistent" with mainstream climate science.

Democrats immediately challenged the statements by Woods and other oil executives, accusing them of engaging in a decades-long, industry-wide campaign to spread disinformation about the contribution of fossil fuels to global warming, according to the Associated Press.

"They are obviously lying like the tobacco executives were," said New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee.

She was referring to a 1994 hearing with tobacco executives who testified that they didn’t believe nicotine was addictive. 

The hearing comes after months of public efforts by Democrats to obtain documents and other information on the oil industry’s role in stopping climate action over multiple decades, the wire service reports. 

Maloney and other Democrats said the fossil fuel industry has had scientific evidence about the dangers of climate change since at least 1977, yet spread denial and doubt about the harm of its products.

However, at least in recent years, the industry has acknowledged that regulatory change to the industry is on the way amid climate change concerns and has tried to engage in shaping policy. 

"Do you agree that (climate change) is an existential threat? Yes or no?" Maloney asked Shell Oil President Gretchen Watkins.

"I agree that this is a defining challenge for our generation, absolutely," Watkins replied.

Oil executives said they agreed with Maloney on the existence and threat posed by climate change but declined to pledge that their companies would not spend money to oppose efforts to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

"We’re pledging to advocate for low-carbon policies that do in fact take the company and the world to net-zero" carbon emissions, said BP America CEO David Lawler, also according to the wire service.

Maloney said she hoped the hearing will help persuade oil executives to change their approach to climate change.