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Fossil fuel executives set to testify on climate disinformation at House Oversight hearing

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ExxonMobil, BP America, Chevron Corp., Shell Oil Co., American Petroleum Institute and American Chamber of Commerce executives will sit before the House Oversight Committee on Thursday. Committee members should emphasize to leaders their knowledge of the climate crisis, the role fossil fuels have played in it, and their willingness to put profits before a climate solution.

The hearing comes after reports that the fossil fuel industry has participated in campaigns aimed at confusing the cause of the climate crisis or sowing skepticism in science. An undercover video released this summer appears to show an ExxonMobil lobbyist admitting that the company has been fighting climate policy and the science behind it.

“For too long, Big Oil has shied away from responsibility for its pivotal role in bringing our planet to the brink of climate catastrophe,” House Oversight President Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York, said in a statement to CNN. “It ends today.”

Fossil fuel companies and trade groups should use their time to focus on their commitment to solving the climate crisis, to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and to highlight the actions they are taking to reduce emissions.

Suzanne Clark, President and CEO of the United States Chamber of Commerce, “looks forward to sharing with the committee the work the chamber has done to forge climate solutions, including many important provisions that will boost the innovation needed to meet ambitious climate goals, “US Chamber of Commerce spokesman Matt Letourneau told CNN, adding that climate solutions must be” sustainable and two-party. ”

American Petroleum Institute spokeswoman Bethany Aronhalt Williams said the trade group plans to discuss “advancing our priorities on carbon pricing, methane regulation and reliable energy production. American “.

Democratic lawmakers are hoping this will be the “Big Tobacco” moment for fossil fuel companies, a nod to the famous 1994 hearings when Big Tobacco CEOs insisted cigarettes were not addictive. And like the tobacco hearings of the ’90s, this hearing will not mark the end of Congressional inquiry into fossil fuel misinformation.

The world has promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  These countries are not meeting their targets.

“I think it’s the modern equivalent of tobacco executives telling Congress that smoking is great,” Democratic Representative Jared Huffman, whose state of California has been ravaged by smoke, told CNN. climatic forest fires. “You’re still hoping for responsibility and progress. Honestly, looking at the big US fossil fuel companies, it’s hard to imagine them approaching it with that in mind.”

A House oversight committee investigation has been underway for about three months and is expected to continue beyond Thursday’s hearing. In particular, legislators want to know more about the most recent activities of companies, from 2015 to the present day, in particular their presence and their advertisements on social networks.

Lawmakers recently asked oil companies to provide documents detailing all efforts to undermine climate science and policy from 2015.

The hearing will also likely cover research and public documents showing that fossil fuel companies knew decades ago that continued use of oil, gas and coal would lead to catastrophic climate change.

“In 1959, the American Petroleum Institute knew that burning fossil fuels could cause global warming ‘enough to melt the ice cap and submerge New York,'” Geoffrey Supran, associate researcher in the history department, told CNN. of Science from Harvard University. “Congress has the power to demand that we open this closet door wide and potentially reveal thousands, if not millions of damning documents, which will finally bring all these skeletons out of the closet.”

Democratic Representative Ro Khanna of California, chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on the Environment, previously told CNN the hearing will line up with Congress’s schedule to adopt massive climate investments and clean energy under President Joe Biden’s budget bill, which are still in negotiations.

It also comes days before the start of the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, where world leaders will meet to discuss targets for reducing fossil fuel emissions.

Khanna said the purpose of the hearing was not to try to “embarrass” the fossil fuel leaders but to get them to admit the misinformation and commit to stopping it in the future.

CNN’s Ren Marsh contributed to this report.

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