Apr 30, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Democrats unveil Big Oil report after 3-year investigation

Photo illustration of oil spilling out of a barrel, oil pipelines and abstract shapes.

Photo illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios.

A new report released Tuesday by Senate and House Democrats alleges that large oil companies attempted to deceive the public about the effects of climate change for decades.

Why it matters: The documents backing the report are finally seeing the light of day after a three-year investigation, which was stuck in limbo after Republicans took back the House in 2022.

  • The joint 66-page report from the Senate Budget and House Oversight Committees claims some of the largest oil companies have internally acknowledged since the 1960s that fossil fuels cause climate change.
  • The Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing about the report on Wednesday, with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, as a witness.
  • The report comes at the same time that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called on the federal government to investigate the $60 billion merger between Exxon and Pioneer.

What's inside: The report argues the oil industry has switched from denial of its impact on climate change to a public relations campaign of "deception, disinformation and doublespeak."

  • The industry has portrayed natural gas as a climate-friendly bridge fuel while "internally acknowledging that there is significant scientific evidence that the lifecycle emissions from gas are as bad as coal," the report says.
  • The report also says the fossil fuel industry has relied on trade organizations like the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Chamber of Commerce to lobby against action on climate change.
  • It also claims that Exxon, Chevron, Shell and BP — along with API and the Chamber — obstructed the investigation.

The report says lawmakers should hold the companies accountable for the findings of the report, but it does not make any specific suggestions, such as criminal referrals to the Department of Justice.

The other side: "These are tired allegations that have already been publicly addressed through previous Congressional hearings on the same topic and litigation in the courts," Exxon told Axios in a statement.

  • A spokesperson for API told Axios that the report featured "unfounded election year rhetoric."
  • Axios has reached out to all of the companies and organizations for comment.
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