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Rep. Ro Khanna Wants Big Oil to Confront Record of Climate Denialism, Meet Emissions Reduction Vows

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Congressmember Ro Khanna chaired a congressional hearing this week that called out fossil fuel companies for failing to meet their pledges to reduce emissions and demanded CEOs of corporations like ExxonMobil confront their climate change denialism and correct their record of contradicting statements. “The goal is to get them to admit that they made mistakes in the past and commit to change going forward,” says Khanna.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to talk about what you’ve done this week — that is, chair the House Oversight Subcommittee on the Environment hearings on the role of major oil companies in funding and disseminating misinformation about the climate crisis. The CEOs didn’t show up, but board members of Shell, Chevron, BP and ExxonMobil refused congressional requests that they testify also at Tuesday’s hearing. Instead, lawmakers heard from climate scientists and experts on Big Oil’s public relations efforts. During the hearing, you questioned climate scientist Michael Mann.

REP. RO KHANNA: In 2002, former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond said he does not believe — and I quote — “that the science establishes the linkage between fossil fuels and warming.” Dr. Mann, you’re a distinguished climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, in our heartland. Do you think that Lee Raymond’s statement that science had not established a link between fossil fuels and climate change in 2002 was accurate?

MICHAEL MANN: No, it was thoroughly inaccurate. Even ExxonMobil at that point knew how inaccurate that statement would be.

REP. RO KHANNA: Do you think it’s fair to say that his statement was not consistent with the science as Exxon understood it at the time?

MICHAEL MANN: Yeah, that’s right. And I would just add that the subsequent CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, who went on to become Donald Trump’s secretary of state, has sort of evolved from denial of the science to insistence that we can just use technology, like geoengineering, to solve the problem. So there is an evolution there, but even now we still have a CEO of ExxonMobil denying the importance of meaningful climate action.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s world-renowned climate scientist Michael Mann, who did testify. Now, I think you have announced that CEOs will testify on International Women’s Day — right? — March 8th. I don’t know if any women are the CEOs of these major oil companies. But can you talk about the significance of them not coming, and what you are demanding of them?

REP. RO KHANNA: So, Amy, the CEOs came a few months ago, and they testified. And what we heard from Dr. Mann was that one of the testimonies, by Darren Woods, the Exxon CEO, was not fully accurate. I mean, Dr. Mann said that Exxon in the past has made statements that were not consistent with Exxon’s own understanding of the science. They’ve denied, in 2002, that human activity causes climate change. And what I asked in the hearing is for Exxon to at least correct the record. I mean, the goal isn’t to trap Darren Woods or these CEOs. The goal is to get them to admit that they made mistakes in the past and commit to change going forward.

Now, since we’ve started these hearings, there have been two or three new pledges by each of these companies. Here’s what’s important to keep in mind. There’s a huge, huge difference between the European companies, one of which does have a woman as CEO, and the American companies, Exxon and Chevron. The European companies, BP and Shell, aren’t perfect, but at least they’re talking about emissions reduction for all the oil they sell. The American companies are saying, “Well, we’ll reduce the emissions for the oil we produce, but we aren’t going to do anything about the oil we actually sell.” It would be as if an automaking company says, “Well, we’re going to have fuel efficiency in our plants, but it doesn’t matter what the fuel efficiency of the cars themselves are.” That’s not a good-faith effort. We need these companies to say, “We’re going to cut emissions for the actual oil we sell and consumers use.”

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