The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉
Main Topic: A Capitol Hill Grilling For Those Who Are Grilling Us With Carbon Pollution
Dear Diary. I was heartened yesterday to hear oil company CEO’s questioned before a congressional panel on why and “if” they have been obfuscating climate science for decades. Many CEO’s sat in near stone cold silence as angry accusations and questions were hurled against them. I love it when piggies get grilled and barbequed since I’m from the South …or at least I did before I became painfully aware of the need to be kind to animals.
Seriously though, yesterday’s climate hearing was pretty much for show with no real bite, except that it may be used to cut oil subsidies sooner, which would be a very good thing. Here is a Washington Post article detailing the proceedings (Click on the link for videos plus much more than what I have posted below.):
Top executives from some of the world’s biggest oil companies are testified before Congress on Thursday about the fossil fuel industry’s alleged efforts to mislead the public about climate change.
Lawmakers on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform brought in executives from ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell to grill them about what Democrats say is their decades-long history of sowing doubt about the effects their products are having on Earth’s temperature and the stability of its climate system.
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Members of ‘the Squad’ grill executives over harm to communities of color
Four of the liberal lawmakers known as “the Squad” — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.) — took turns bashing the fossil fuel industry for the harm they say it has caused to American discourse and communities.
“I need Chevron to cut the check. You owe $50 billion to Indigenous communities and people that you harmed for profit,” Tlaib told Chevron CEO Michael Wirth.
Ocasio-Cortez grilled American Petroleum Institute CEO Mike Sommers about his organization’s opposition to elements of President Biden’s climate agenda, including a fee on methane emissions. “It’s not lost on me that we are having a hearing today surrounding fossil fuel misinformation and disinformation campaigns on the same day that we are scheduled to vote on legislation that has been deeply influenced by the lobbying efforts of the fossil fuel industry,” she said.
Pressley asked ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods to commit to stop funding groups that reject the scientific consensus on climate change. Woods said in response that ExxonMobil does not currently fund the Heartland Institute, a right-wing think tank, and that they do not support climate denial. “We do not ask people to lobby anything different than our publicly supported position, expressed position,” Woods responded.
Bush cited research showing that communities of color are more likely to live near fossil fuel infrastructure that releases harmful pollution, also noting that most of the industry’s executives are White.
Rep. Porter uses visual aids to illustrate ‘greenwashing’Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) on Oct. 28 demonstrated the sizable difference between Shell Oil Co.’s planned investments in fossil fuels and in renewable energy. (The Washington Post)
Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) held up two jars of M&M candies to demonstrate the sizable difference between Shell Oil’s planned investments in fossil fuels and in renewable energy.
“Does this look like a huge undertaking to you?” Porter asked Shell Oil president Gretchen Watkins, pointing to a nearly empty jar of M&Ms that she said symbolized Shell’s plan to spend $2 billion to $3 billion on renewable energy this year.
Porter then gestured at a second, overflowing jar of M&Ms that she said represented Shell’s plan to spend $19 billion to $22 billion in the near term on new fossil fuel exploration, as detailed in its 2020 annual report.
Watkins responded that “there needs to be both a demand and a supply of clean energy, which is why we’re working very closely with our customers so that that demand increases over time.”
Porter shot back: “To me, this does not look like an adequate response to one of the defining challenges of our time. This is green-washing. Shell is trying to fool people into thinking it’s addressing the climate crisis when what it’s actually doing is to continue to put money into fossil fuels.”
The California Democrat, who is known for pulling out props while grilling business titans, next turned to Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute, who has opposed a pause on new federal oil and gas leasing on public lands.
Porter noted that there are 7,700 unused oil and gas permits that account for 13.9 million acres — equivalent to Maryland and New Jersey combined. To illustrate that wide swath of public lands, Porter relied on large bags of rice stacked in the back of her minivan.
“Our public land belongs to the American people, not to Big Oil,” she said.
Democrats, Republicans spar over Big Oil’s First Amendment rights
Democrats and Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform offered sharply differing views of oil companies’ rights under the First Amendment to make public comments about climate change.
Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) asked the top executives of BP, Shell Oil, Exxon Mobil and Chevron whether they “accept that the First Amendment does not protect fraudulent commercial speech.”
All four executives gave variations of the same answer. BP CEO David Lawler said he is not “an expert on that particular topic,” while Chevron CEO Michael Wirth said he is “not a constitutional scholar and would trust those who are.”
Raskin, a former constitutional law professor, saved his sharpest questioning for Exxon CEO Darren Woods. He noted that after Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) sued Exxon for allegedly deceiving consumers about climate change, the oil company countersued in a federal court in Texas, alleging that Healey was punishing Exxon for exercising its First Amendment rights.
Conversely, in an emotional tirade earlier in the hearing, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) argued that Democrats’ questioning of the oil executives itself amounted to a violation of the companies’ First Amendment rights. Donalds added that Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney’s (D-N.Y.) requests of oil companies were “disgusting.”
American Petroleum Institute comes under fire for lobbying
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight subcommittee on environment, called on more oil companies to quit their membership in the American Petroleum Institute over its opposition to climate policies such as electric vehicle subsidies.
French oil giant Total announced in January that it was leaving the API, saying it could not reconcile differences with the powerful trade association over carbon pricing, electric vehicle subsidies and the regulation of methane emissions.
“Would any of you take the opportunity and look at API and say, ‘stop it’?” Khanna asked the top executives of BP, Shell Oil, ExxonMobil and Chevron.
His question was met with blank stares, and none of the executives would commit to leaving the powerful lobbying and trade group.
Khanna also implored the executives to conduct independent audits to confirm that their companies were not contributing to climate disinformation and denial. None would commit to the audit, either.
Top Democrat says oil industry is ‘obviously lying like the tobacco executives were’
Top oil industry executives — in particular, ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods — came under fire from Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform over past corporate stances denying the seriousness of climate change.
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), chair of the committee, said there was a “clear conflict” between what a past Exxon executive said about climate change and what the company’s own researchers were privately telling the company’s top brass.
She grilled Woods about statements sowing doubt about climate change from one of Woods’s predecessors, Lee Raymond, including a 1997 speech in which Raymond said “the case for so-called global warming is far from airtight.”
Those public statement came even as Exxon’s scientists were studying the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and warning the company’s leaders of the “generally negative consequences” of rising sea levels.
“Do you agree, there is an inconsistency?” Maloney asked.
“No, I do not agree there was an inconsistency,” Woods responded, noting that the company’s position has evolved along with the consensus in the scientific community.
“I think the quotes speak for themselves,” Maloney said in response.
She went on to play a video of an Exxon lobbyist, secretly recorded by the environmental group Greenpeace UK, saying the company’s public support of a policy placing a price on carbon emissions was just an “easy talking point.”
After showing the video, Maloney added: “They are obviously lying like the tobacco executives were.”
Shell Oil president pressed on whether warming is ‘existential threat’
Gretchen Watkins, president of Shell Oil, would not concede under questioning that climate change poses an “existential threat” to the nation and the world, even as the oil company rolled out a new pledge to cut planet-warming emissions early Thursday.
“I agree climate change is one of the biggest challenges in the world today, which is why at Shell, we’re in action,” Watkins said.
“We need to work in collaboration with society, with governments,” she said, adding, “I agree that this is a defining challenge for our generation. Absolutely.”
Watkins was responding to a question from Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Maloney had asked her to answer “yes” or “no” as to whether global warming poses an existential threat to humanity. Watkins would not say “yes.”
The tense exchange came as Royal Dutch Shell, the Anglo-Dutch parent company of U.S. subsidiary Shell Oil, unveiled a new target Thursday to halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 after posting worse-than-expected profits for the third quarter.
However, the pledge did not cover the majority of the emissions from the oil and gas that Shell produces, and it was unlikely to satisfy climate activists and some investors who have been pushing the company to curtail its investments in fossil fuels.
Top Republicans question ‘legitimacy’ of Democrats’ hearing
Rep. James Comer (Ky.), the ranking Republican of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, blasted his Democratic colleagues for holding a hearing on how oil companies allegedly misled the public on climate change in the past at a time when the country faces so many crises.
“This hearing is simply a distraction,” said Comer, arguing that the time would be better spent on holding hearings on increasing gasoline prices, the withdrawal from Afghanistan or the coronavirus pandemic.
The hearing was spurred in part by the release of a secretly recorded video of an ExxonMobil lobbyist. Keith McCoy, who at the time was Exxon’s senior director for federal relations, said the firm’s public support of a carbon tax was just an “easy talking point” with little chance of passing Congress, according to a video released by Greenpeace UK in July.
But Comer argued that the video was “deceptively reported and edited.” The fact that Democrats are relying on the video means “the American people must question the legitimacy of the Democrats’ actions,” he said.
Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), meanwhile, dinged John F. Kerry, President Biden’s climate envoy, for flying “over in his private jet with fossil fuel” to an international climate conference in Scotland, which he argued is unlikely to spur China and other big polluter nations to significantly cut emissions.
Oversight panel details Big Oil’s lobbying in new report
The chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform kicked off the hearing by vowing to hold oil executives accountable for their lobbying against climate action, as the panel released an analysis detailing the extent of that lobbying.
“For the first time, top fossil fuel executives are testifying together before Congress, under oath, about the industry’s role in causing climate change — and their efforts to cover it up,” said Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.). “For far too long, Big Oil has escaped accountability for its central role in bringing our planet to the brink of a climate catastrophe.”
A report released Thursday morning by the majority staff on the Oversight panel found that Exxon, Chevron, Shell, BP and the American Petroleum Institute have spent a combined $452.6 million on lobbying the federal government since 2011.
But less than 0.4 percent of the industry’s legislative lobbying over the past decade was on carbon pricing legislation, the analysis found, even as the top executives of BP, Shell and API plan to tout their support for carbon pricing in their prepared testimonies.
“Over the past 10 years, these four companies have dedicated only a very tiny fraction of their immense lobbying resources to enact the policies they publicly claim are key to address climate change, while spending tens of millions to protect their profits from oil and gas,” Maloney said.
Maloney said the hearing marks the beginning of the committee’s investigation, adding that “if we need to call the CEOs back to testify again, we will.”
Republicans to hammer Biden on energy, climate policy
Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform plan to shift the conversation Thursday to President Biden’s early moves on climate change, which they say have cost American jobs and led to rising gasoline prices.
Rep. James Comer (Ky.), the top Republican on the oversight panel, said in an interview that he intends to criticize Biden for revoking a key permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline on his first day in office.
“Right off the bat, they canceled the Keystone pipeline,” Comer told The Post, adding that he thinks the White House is “creating a situation where it’s easier for Russia and China and other countries to build pipelines and do the things that we should be doing to invest in our energy infrastructure here in America.”
Republicans have intensified their attacks on Biden’s climate agenda in recent days, as the president prepares to travel to a U.N. climate summit that starts Sunday in Glasgow.
“President Biden is soaring off to Scotland to be part of a world climate summit at the same time energy prices are soaring here at home,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said at a news conference Wednesday. “He’ll be overseas for Halloween, but people all across America will be suffering through the nightmare of high energy costs.”
Top Democrat draws parallels between Big Oil and Big Tobacco
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), chair of the House oversight subcommittee on environment, hopes his hearing Thursday will be a historic moment for holding the oil industry accountable for its role in causing climate change.
Khanna plans to draw a parallel to an infamous 1994 hearing at which the chief executives of the seven biggest U.S. tobacco companies — dubbed the “seven dwarfs” — testified under oath that they believed nicotine was not addictive.
“Today, the CEOs of the largest oil companies in the world face a stark choice. You can either come clean, admit your past misrepresentations and ongoing inconsistencies, and stop supporting climate disinformation. Or you can sit here in front of the American public and lie under oath,” Khanna plans to say, according to a copy of his opening remarks seen by The Washington Post.
“I hope Big Oil today will not follow the same playbook as Big Tobacco,” Khanna will say. “You are powerful leaders at the top of the corporate world at a crucial turning point for our planet. Be better. Spare us the spin today, please.”
Reporting by Inside Climate News, the Los Angeles Times and other news outlets showed that Exxon, Shell and other oil companies understood back in the 1980s, or even earlier, the potentially destabilizing effect that fossil fuels emissions have on the atmosphere. Only in recent years have oil companies broadly acknowledged the risks that climate change poses.
“What hurt tobacco was their refusal to come clean,” Khanna said in an interview with The Post before the hearing. “I mean, if they had just acknowledged that nicotine was addictive, it wouldn’t have been the pivotal moment it was. So my expectation is that the oil executives aren’t going to want to perjure themselves.”
“This is an opportunity for them really to make the commitment to starting new,” Khanna said.
Here are more world “ET’s”:
Here is more climate and weather news from Friday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)
Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid COVID-19 pandemic:
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Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”