Rhetoric v. Reality: Big Oil Changes Tune on Addressing Climate Change While Lobby Associations’ Continue to Misinform
Trump Admin Rolled Back Methane Regulations After Lobbying by the American Petroleum Association to Appease Special Interests
HELENA, MT- As the Biden administration continues to make strides towards addressing climate change, protecting our public lands and environment, and tackling environmental justice, Accountable.US released another installment of Big Oil’s rhetoric regarding climate change — a far cry from the actual reality.
In their fourth quarter earnings reports to shareholders, several Big Oil corporations finally came clean about President Biden’s temporary pause of public lands leasing, saying that they “could manage through this issue without materially impacting our plans,” according to reporting by Politico. But that message to shareholders stands in stark contrast to Big Oil’s largest lobbying arm, the American Petroleum Institute, front group Western Energy Alliance, and oily members of Congress and politicians, who continue to misinform and conflate the reality of the Biden administration’s reassessment of a broken system that fails to account for climate change and is shortchanging taxpayers.
“One has to wonder whether Big Oil corporations are talking to their lobby arms and front-groups — or if their conflicting messages are intentional. Regardless, it’s clear the American Petroleum Institute and the broader oil and gas sector are talking out of both sides of their mouth in a desperate attempt to distort the reality of the climate crisis, and the commonsense actions the Biden administration is taking to protect our environment, public lands, wildlife, and the American taxpayer,” said Accountable.US spokesperson Jayson O’Neill.
Last week, Accountable.US released a report addressing the temporary pause to public lands leasing after the former Trump administration spent four years letting Big Oil lock up millions of acres of public lands and shorting taxpayers while showering the sector with billions in tax breaks and bailouts.
President Biden Is Rightfully Addressing Climate Change And Treating It As An “Existential Threat.” Big Oil Corporations Say They Oppose Biden’s Plans, But They’ve Been Planning For Climate Change, Too
RHETORIC: Big Oil’s Lobby Arm Says Joe Biden’s Climate Policies Are “Insulting”
The American Petroleum Institute Says Joe Biden’s Policies Will “Undermine Or Eliminate An Industry.” “The oil lobby group is also skeptical of proposals by Biden and Democrats to help affected fossil fuel workers transition to jobs in cleaner energy or to compensate state and counties for the hit on revenues from a leasing ban. ‘The idea that you are going to seek to undermine or eliminate an industry and then provide them with government jobs in a New Deal-type of fashion is pretty insulting to U.S. oil and gas workers.’” [Washington Examiner, 01/13/21]
REALITY: Even Big Oil Recognizes That Climate Change Is A Threat. Many Companies Are Actively Transitioning To Mitigate Their Own Impact
Biden’s Policies May Not Be As Big A Concern To The Industry, As It Has Already Been Transitioning To A “Low-Carbon Energy Future.” “However, the overall impact of the Biden presidency on the industry is likely to be less traumatic than feared if only because the world, including the U.S., has already been engaged in the transition to a low-carbon energy future. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that coal production slumped to a 41-year low in 2019—down 8.8% since 2017, the first year of the Trump administration—at a time when the U.S. president was trying to restore miners’ jobs. The power generation market long ago decided for economic reasons to shift from coal to natural gas.” [Hart Energy, 11/07/20]
Many Big Oil Companies Have Already Been Contemplating The Net-Zero Carbon Future The Biden Promises, In Part To Get A “Seat At The Table” In The Biden Administration. “The trick is to execute a transition that will reassure fossil-fuel workers that their jobs won’t vanish overnight, and that’s a tightrope Biden will continue to walk as he aims to eliminate contributions to global warming by the middle of the century. Well before Biden’s White House win, some oil companies were already contemplating that scenario. Occidental Petroleum, Total, BP and Royal Dutch Shell have been thinking about what it would mean to go to a net-zero carbon future just 30 years from now. They want to make sure they have a seat at the table as the Biden administration develops its climate policies.” [Washington Post, 12/22/20]
Just Weeks After Biden’s Election, ExxonMobil Said It Would Reduce Try To Reduce Emissions. “Some major players are stepping out in front of the new administration. Perhaps it was not a coincidence that five weeks after Biden’s election, ExxonMobil announced that it would clamp down on emissions from its natural gas operations and from flares from around the world.” [Washington Post, 12/22/20]
One Big Oil CEO Phrases Wants To “Work Toward A Cleaner Usage Of Fossil Fuels” Rather Than “Continually Be Criticized.” “In an op-ed critical of Joe Biden, Gulf Energy CEO John Royall called for the oil industry’s critics to stop vilifying the oil industry and ‘work toward a cleaner usage of fossil fuels as part of a broader energy mix in the future. Rather than to be continually criticized by Biden and others who use our products for their own lives and business, it would be a much more productive approach to recognize the importance of the products we produce in the oil and gas industry, and to work toward a cleaner usage of fossil fuels as part of a broader energy mix in the future.” [World Oil, 10/26/20]
Even Occidental, A Major Public Lands Driller, Came Up With A Plan To Reach Net-Zero The Week Of The Election. “Occidental this week announced a strategy to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, including Scope 3 emissions, those associated with the use of its products. ‘In the end, as long as we have our long-term development plans in place, I think we will be okay as an industry,’ [Occidental Petroleum CEO Vicki] Hollub said at the ADIPEC panel.” [Oil Price, 11/14/20]
REALITY: The Biden Administration Is Addressing The Existential Threat Of Climate Change
Biden Called Climate Change “The Number One Issue Facing Humanity,” And That “We Have A Moral Obligation” To Address it. “It’s the number one issue facing humanity. And it’s the number one issue for me. …Look, climate change is the existential threat to humanity, the existential threat to humanity. Unchecked, it is going to actually bake this planet. This is not hyperbole. It’s real. And we have a moral obligation. There’s not many things. Dan and I worked together a long time. Don’t hear me often invoke a moral obligation. We have a moral obligation, not just the young people. We have a moral obligation to everyone.” [Pod Save America podcast, 10/24/20]
Big Oil Is Changing Its Tune On Methane Regulations After Years Of Fighting To Tear Them Down
RHETORIC: Big Oil Special Interests Say They Support Federal Regulation Of The Extremely Potent Greenhouse Gas.
The American Petroleum Institute Supports The “Federal Regulation Of Methane From New And Existing Sources.” “In a blog post set to be published today, API President Mike Sommers announced the trade association’s support for “the direct federal regulation of methane from new and existing sources, as well as its desire to work with the new Biden administration to develop durable regulation that follows the law.”” [E&E News, 01/21/21]
Shell, Exxon Mobil, And BP All Supported Methane Regulations. “Shell, BP and the Exxon Mobil Corp. have big natural gas portfolios. They worry that if methane emissions aren’t controlled that could undermine arguments that natural gas is a cleaner-burning fossil fuel than coal. “The negative impacts of leaks and fugitive emissions have been widely acknowledged for years, so it’s frustrating and disappointing to see the administration go in a different direction,” said Gretchen Watkins, Shell’s president in the United States.” [NPR, 08/13/20]
The Western Energy Alliance Has Committed To “Engage Constructively” In The Biden Administration’s Rulemaking. “”When it comes to methane regulation, certainly the administration has the authority to move forward with regulation,” Sgamma said in an email. “We expect it will, and we’ll engage constructively in that rulemaking process. However, regulation needs to follow the Clean Air Act.”” [S&P Global, 01/21/21]
REALITY: Big Oil Industry Groups Supported The Trump Administration’s Efforts To Deregulate Methane Pollution
Western Energy Alliance Praised Trump’s Methane Rule. “Western Energy Alliance welcomes the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) release of a final methane rule, the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) OOOOa rule. The following is a statement from Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma: “Western Energy Alliance is pleased that EPA has finalized the methane rule.”” [Western Energy Alliance, Press Release, 08/13/20]
API Had Backed Trump Methane Regulation Rollbacks In August 2020. “In August, API backed the Trump administration’s rollback of Obama-era regulations targeting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, saying at the time that the revisions were consistent with the Clean Air Act.” [E&E News, 01/21/21]
REALITY: Big Oil Opposed Methane Regulations Before The Trump Administration
Western Energy Alliance Fights Against Regulation of Methane Emissions. “Kathleen Sgamma, president of the trade group Western Energy Alliance, testified that the Methane Waste Protection Act and two other bills to more tightly regulate oil and gas companies would do more harm than good.” [Colorado Politics, 9/24/19]
WEA And The Independent Petroleum Association Of America Fought Against Methane Regulation In Court. “Western Energy Alliance and the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) today achieved an important victory in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming, along with the states of Montana, North Dakota, Texas and Wyoming. Judge Scott Skavdahl’s decision vacated the 2016 waste prevention rule, an overreaching methane regulation finalized in the waning days of the Obama Administration that unlawfully granted air quality authority to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).” [Western Energy Alliance, Press Release, 10/08/20]
REALITY: The Trump-Era EPA Withdrew Methane Regulations After The Oil Industry Asked Them To
The EPA Withdrew Regulations To Control Methane Three Weeks After Receiving An Email From WEA’s President, Kathleen Sgamma, On The Subject. “Not long after President Trump’s inauguration, the head of a fossil fuels industry group requested a call with the president’s transition team. The subject: Barack Obama’s requirement that oil and gas companies begin collecting data on their releases of methane. That outreach, by Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, appeared to quickly yield the desired results. […] Three weeks after that email, the E.P.A. officially withdrew the reporting requirement — and effectively blocked the compilation of data that would allow for new regulations to control methane, a powerful climate-warming gas.” [New York Times, 07/21/20]
IPAA Praised The Trump Administration’s Efforts To Rollback Methane Regulations. “In response to the EPA’s announcement today of changes from the Obama-era methane regulations (the 2016 New Source Performance Standards [NSPS], Subpart OOOOa), including the change of the regulated emission from methane to volatile organic compounds (VOC), Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) Executive Vice President Lee Fuller gave the following statement: “IPAA endorses the change because it would be far more cost effective with regard to the breadth of emissions sources. IPAA has consistently believed and recommended that a VOC‑based program is the appropriate pathway for regulating natural gas and oil production emissions.” [IPAA, Press Release, 08/29/19]
The IPAA Is A Former Client Of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. [Deputy Secretary Of The Interior Ethics Recusal, 08/15/17]
Shell Is A Member Of The IPAA. [FWS-2018-00528 Records, accessed 01/22/21]
Energy Company Equinor Opposed Methane Regulations While Claiming To Work On Lowering Their Own Emissions. “And yesterday, Bjørn Otto Sverdrup, senior vice president for corporate sustainability at Norwegian energy company Equinor ASA, said on Twitter that the company does not support “the rollback of federal methane regulations in the US just announced.” “Reducing emissions remains an important part of @Equinor’s approach to provide low carbon energy. We pledge to continue our work to lower our methane emissions,” he said.” [E&E News, 08/14/20]
Equinor Was Previously Known As Statoil. “We’re Equinor, an international energy company with a proud history. Formerly Statoil, we are 20,000 committed colleagues developing oil, gas, wind and solar energy in more than 30 countries worldwide.” [LinkedIn, Equinor, accessed 01/21/21]
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt Was Recused From Working On Issues Involving Statoil. [Deputy Secretary Of The Interior Ethics Recusal, 08/15/17]