Energy company CEOs testify on climate change disinformation at congressional hearing

(Washington Post) — Scientists have been grappling with what to do about the disinformation campaigns targeting them, with one growing pressure group asserting that the overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed articles debunk negative climate research…

Energy company CEOs testify on climate change disinformation at congressional hearing

(Washington Post) — Scientists have been grappling with what to do about the disinformation campaigns targeting them, with one growing pressure group asserting that the overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed articles debunk negative climate research and that others have agreed that the modern media should more broadly recognize climate change.

An organization called the Science Media Center, which runs the ScienceDebate.org debate of science education, organized a panel yesterday in Washington at which the CEOs of six oil and gas companies — Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Darren Woods, Occidental Petroleum Corp.’s Vicki Hollub, Marathon Oil Corp.’s Lee Tillman, Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc.’s Marc Edwards, ConocoPhillips Co.’s Ryan Lance and BP Plc’s Bob Dudley — agreed to testify before Congress on climate disinformation.

The consensus around the science of climate change has been “woefully understated,” Woods said at the panel, which was moderated by a reporter for Grist, a web site that advocates for sustainable, balanced environmental policies. That viewpoint “is not reflective of mainstream opinion,” he said.

Matthew Dempsey, a vice president at BP, said the coalition has been working to counter misinformation for the past 15 years and that “nobody is doing more than BP.” “It’s easy to look at this and say everything is being done by Exxon and Chevron,” he said. “We’re clearly the low-hanging fruit.”

Dempsey said he opposes any action that aims to undermine a carbon market and argued that “a robust carbon market is what our business model and our business strategy should be based on.”

While the CEOs acknowledged climate change, they all rejected the notion that they have misled the public.

“We want to be clear about what the companies do and don’t believe,” said Edwards, chief operating officer of Diamond Offshore, “and that’s to demonstrate that we’re meeting the challenges of climate change in a reasonable, responsible way.”

As for policy proposals, Edwards said he sees little urgency to modernize the nation’s oil and gas regulatory framework. “We’re still fighting the shale revolution in many states,” he said. “That debate is not over.”

Hollub, Occidental’s chief executive, criticized President Donald Trump’s deregulation of oil and gas drilling, saying that the industry “didn’t cause this.”

“We are not interested in exporting our products to countries that don’t have economic prosperity,” she said. “It’s just not in our interest.”

Woods, CEO of Exxon Mobil, in particular defended his company’s pipeline investment to boost United States-Saudi relations, describing the move as “an investment in our national security and the safety of our people.” He lamented “policy dialogue and politicking,” saying that “politics has become the forum for debate.”

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., called the event “important” and noted that the CEOs lacked answers to the concerns he has raised over climate change. “Our temperatures are rising, sea levels are rising, and it’s not slowing down,” he said.

Cardin did not mention the Exxon shareholder proposal he had offered at last year’s annual meeting, which called for splitting the CEO-CFO chair of the board positions, such as Exxon’s Tillerson, who is set to become secretary of state in Trump’s administration.

The topic of climate change is likely to come up again at Exxon’s annual meeting on May 9, and Chevron will hold its meeting on May 30.

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