Full Climate Risk Accounting Must Include Review of Big Oil’s Public Lands Leasing Financial Scheme
HELENA, MT- As the Biden administration works to lift the veil of corporate America’s internal climate risk assessments and provide important transparency for financial markets and taxpayers, the American Petroleum Institute (API) continues to reject responsibility, shift costs onto taxpayers, and lobby to make the world a worse place while dumping millions into targeted media campaigns in a desperate attempt to influence officials and confuse the public.
“The American Petroleum Institute continues to try to ensure its Big Oil members can operate in a cloak of secrecy and shift climate costs onto the backs of taxpayers. Cooking the books with flashy ads and empty rhetoric about commitments to diversity while attempting to block climate action is dishonest and a disservice to Americans. Worse, oily senators continue to do Big Oil’s bidding despite their constituents’ demands for commonsense climate action,” said Accountable.US spokesperson Jayson O’Neill. “Full transparency on climate risks is an important first step, but the review should include a full examination of Big Oil’s public lands leasing scheme as well.”
The Biden administration’s action to address climate change is poised to provide more transparency on climate risk in financial disclosure rules according to reporting by Politico. But Big Oil’s lobbying arm, the American Petroleum Institute, is objecting to climate impact and risk assessments because peeling back the layers of secrecy might expose the fossil fuel sector’s cost-shift onto taxpayers and undo Big Oil’s public lands leasing scheme.
It’s no secret that Big Oil has a huge greenhouse gas emissions climate change problem. Even as Americans see the reality of extreme weather, fires and drought on our doorsteps, major oil corporations like Exxon Mobile are still trying to cover it up. The American Petroleum Institute (API) even launched a targeted advertising campaign in an attempt to derail action on climate change. It is unclear the extent of the advertising buys, but it could be into the millions. API’s front-group Energy Citizens ads have appeared in Ohio, Colorado, New York, and Washington, D.C.
The unsustainable debt load of the oil and gas sector has resulted in hundreds of bankruptcies and massive industry consolidation even after receiving billions in taxpayer bailouts from the Trump administration. But how did the sector dive into massive debt even before oil prices took a tumble? Big Oil has been taking advantage of a Security and Exchange Commission’s loophole for over a decade to pad their balance sheets, borrow against the future, and short-change taxpayers by amassing public land leases on the cheap.
A report by the Center for American Progress explains what’s behind the faux outrage over the Biden administration’s temporary public lands leasing pause. The report found ‘that changes in Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reporting policies have allowed oil and gas companies to increase their booked reserves over time.’ The change instituted under the Bush administration, in short, created perverse incentives for oil and gas corporations to amass cheap public land leases so those new reserves could be added to balance sheets, improving its ability to get financing, loans, and hold massive debt.
It isn’t surprising that Big Oil’s lobby arm API is against full cost accounting on climate change and risk assessments. The group was a driving force behind many of the rollbacks to human health, environmental, and public land protections, including gutting America’s bedrock environmental law – the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Now, Big Oil lobbyists are pulling out every trick in the book to keep investors and Americans in the dark about climate risk and the fossil fuel sector’s financial house-of-cards. Keep tabs on the rhetoric coming from Big Oil at Accountable.US.