The hearing was supposed to be about climate change disinformation. Republicans turned it into a fossil fuel lovefest.
The House Oversight Committee on Thursday invited into its halls (or rather, its Zoom call) the top executives of the biggest oil firms in the world. The goal was ostensibly to press these fossil fuel companies on their history of obscuring or outright lying about the realities of climate change and their role in causing it. And while most of the Democrats on the committee seemed committed to that goal, many of the Republicans instead decided to continue to push the very same type of misinformation that these companies have been shoveling for years.
This hearing, which has been a long time coming, should’ve been a relatively straightforward affair. After all, we already know that Big Oil has spread misinformation about climate change. In 2015, Inside Climate News published a series of Pulitzer-nominated reports that revealed ExxonMobil’s own research revealed that the burning of fossil fuels contributed to climate change and opted to cover it up. Recent research from Harvard University found that the oil industry has intentionally tried to publicly downplay the risks of climate change. An entire book, Merchants of Doubt, even lays out how the fossil fuel industry borrowed the tobacco industry's playbook for sewing doubt about scientific consensus.
So, did the fossil fuel industry spread misinformation about climate change? Yep! File the lawsuit and start the process of holding these companies accountable.
Except it turns out that Republicans would much rather stick their neck out for these corporate interests than for their own constituents. While the five-minute sessions of questioning by Democrats were often substantive and sought to hold the oil executives from ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, and Shell accountable (California Rep. Katie Porter, bless her, showed up with visual aids in the form of a trunk full of rice and jars of M&Ms), Republicans spent most of their time praising these companies for their work.
Actually, it was worse than that. Some Republican committee members literally apologized to the CEOs. Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, who got nearly $1.5 million in campaign funding from the fossil fuel industry, apologized for how the top executives at some of the wealthiest and destructive corporations in the world had been “attacked” by tough questions. Rep. Bob Gibbs of Ohio, who has cashed more than $300,000 in campaign checks from oil and gas interests, got in on the chorus of contrition by praising oil for the advancement of humanity.
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who has taken a cool $200,000 from fossil fuel firms, said “God bless Chevron” for their plans to increase oil production rather than shrink their carbon emissions. Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs took the one-upmanship even further, calling on the Big Oil executives to stop “appeasing” those concerned about climate change.
It was an embarrassing display, which is impressive given how low the bar was set. The message from Republicans wasn’t “just keep doing what you’re doing,” which would be bad enough. It was actually “Do more of it.” The motivation for that does not seem to come from a place of economics, as clean energy is more profitable and produces a better return on investment. It’s not job-related, as the fossil fuel industry is cutting its workforce while maximizing profits. Instead, it seems that Republicans are willing to let the planet burn to own the libs and line their pockets along the way. Cool stuff, y’all.