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Republicans want oil executives to stop apologizing and do less to avert climate catastrophe

Executives from six major oil and gas companies testified at a congressional hearing this week as gasoline prices approached record highs and a calamitous report on the urgency of tackling climate change was released. published.

The hearing before a Chamber Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee concentrated on whether the industry is prioritizing profits over increasing domestic production, and lawmakers on both sides have called on industry leaders to get to work and increase production to relieve the pump. It was also, however, a rare opportunity for lawmakers to pressure top oil executives on what they are doing to tackle climate change, which their industry has played an outsized role in driving.

This week, a new United Nations report warned that global greenhouse gas emissions must peak no later than three years from now and then be cut nearly in half by 2030 to avoid the worst effects of climate change. climatic.

But there is no need to worry, according to the Republicans. Instead, two GOP members of the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee urged industry leaders to stop caring about environmentalists and instead double down on the very energy sources that put the world on the path to catastrophic and irreversible climate change.

Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) noted during the hearing that global energy demand is forecast increase by 50% by 2050 and said that “renewable energy will never meet this demand – ever”. He then listed metals and other resources that would need to be mined and secured to transition from fossil fuels to renewables. And he touted the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that could result if all coal-fired electricity were replaced with natural gas.

“That’s the argument you should be making instead of behaving like you have Stockholm Syndrome, like your civility to the radical environmentalists in Congress and this administration will one day get them to like you,” Crenshaw told reporters. oil industry executives. “They will never like you.”

“Please defend your work, your employees and your consumers,” he added. “Tell the truth. Don’t pander to what they want on the left, because Americans need you.

Among other things, Crenshaw’s comments ignore the suffering and devastation that heat waves, drought and extreme weather fueled by climate change are already causing around the world – and it will get worse with every additional degree of warming. .

Among the six executives who received Crenshaw’s pep talk were Chevron CEO Michael Wirth and ExxonMobil CEO Darren W. Woods. Chevron and ExxonMobil are both among the top 10 contributors to Crenshaw, donating $29,774 and $23,153 respectively. Crenshaw received a total of $693,435 in campaign donations from the oil and gas industry during his career, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), another big recipient of industry campaign money, gave an equally obsequious lecture, telling leaders they deserve thanks and praise for what they are doing “to keep the lights on” and “literally to fuel modern life as we know it in America.”

“But there is a problem,” Johnson said. “A lot of you have big advertising budgets. Why don’t you tell that story? I won’t name names, but we’ve all seen the Big Oil TV ads, full of solar panels, messages about the green climate on how you diversify your portfolio and how you embrace liberal and progressive values.

“What was your return on investment with this effort? Johnson continued. ” You have taken a bombardment today from the Democrats. Do they seem impressed with your efforts to show your allegiance to their anti-fossil energy agenda? »

Johnson launched a series of yes-or-no questions to find out if leaders are proud of the products and jobs they produce. After getting a flurry of positive responses, he called on leaders to use his line of questions as a model to tell their story.

He accused the industry of “pursuing radical green progressive values”.

The oil and gas sector gave Johnson $725,609 during his political career, more than any other industry.

Earlier in the hearing, BP and Shell executives touted their companies’ investments in renewable energy, including wind and solar, as well as the electrification of the auto industry. But these investments pale in comparison to the amount of money the industry continues to pour into production and new fossil fuel projects.

Republican lawmakers’ rhetoric about the superiority of fossil fuels over cheaper and more reliable renewables not only highlights the division in Washington over future energy policy, but also underscores one of the key takeaways from the new report. the UN: that the greatest obstacle to aggressive climate action is not technology or the affordability of renewable energy; they are political forces.

Renewable energy is rapidly becoming cheaper and more competitive. From 2010 to 2019, the price of solar power and lithium-ion batteries fell 85%, while wind fell 55%, according to the report.

But conservative politicians and think tanks repeatedly attack green power as not yet ready for prime time. A major example of right-wing climate misinformation occurred last winter, when a powerful winter storm triggered blackouts across Texas. Crenshaw and Johnson joined a chorus of Republicans who initially blamed the grid outages on the failure of wind turbines and solar panels.

“Conclusion: Renewables don’t work well in extreme weather conditions. Never,” Crenshaw tweeted at the time. “Can we rely on renewables to power the grid in extreme weather conditions? No, you need gas or nuclear.

In fact, the main cause from deadly the power cuts weren’t that the renewables didn’t work in the extreme winter weather conditions. It’s because instruments have frozen in coal, nuclear and natural gas power plants.

“Let me remind you that people are dying from lack of energy – and in large numbers,” Crenshaw said during Wednesday’s hearing. “Hopefully all this green compassion I always hear about has some answers to that.”

He did not express hope that existing fossil fuel infrastructure would prove more reliable the next time Texas experiences severe weather.

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