‘Scathing Indictment’ of Big Oil Lies Unveiled on Eve of Senate Hearing

by Jessica Corbett

Two U.S. Congressional committees on Tuesday released a report that “provides a rare glimpse into the extensive efforts undertaken by fossil fuel companies to deceive the public and investors about their knowledge of the effects of their products on climate change and to undermine efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.”

The report—titled “Denial, Disinformation, and Doublespeak: Big Oil’s Evolving Efforts to Avoid Accountability for Climate Change”—was released after nearly three years of investigation by the Democratic staffs of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability and the Senate Budget Committee.

“For decades, the fossil fuel industry has known about the economic and climate harms of its products but has deceived the American public to keep collecting more than $600 billion each year in subsidies while raking in record-breaking profits,” said Senate Budget Committee Chair Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

“As this joint report makes clear, the industry’s outright denial of climate change has evolved into a green-seeming cover for its ongoing covert operation—a campaign of deception, disinformation, and doublespeak waged using dark money, phony front groups, false economics, and relentless exertion of political influence—to block climate progress,” the senator added.

In a statement welcoming the report, Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity, said that “this new evidence of Big Oil’s climate lies will likely be used to hold these companies accountable in court—and it should generate renewed calls for the U.S. Department of Justice to finally open its own investigation into the fossil fuel industry.”

The congressional probe targeted four companies and two industry allies: BP America, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell USA as well as the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Chamber of Commerce. As the report details, the committee staffers found:

Documents demonstrate for the first time that fossil fuel companies internally do not dispute that they have understood since at least the 1960s that burning fossil fuels causes climate change and then worked for decades to undermine public understanding of this fact and to deny the underlying science.

Big Oil’s deception campaign evolved from explicit denial of the basic science underlying climate change to deception, disinformation, and doublespeak.

The fossil fuel industry relies on trade associations to spread confusing and misleading narratives and to lobby against climate action.

The fossil fuel industry strategically partners with universities to lend an aura of credibility to its deception campaigns while also silencing opposition voices.

All six entities—Exxon, Chevron, Shell, BP, API, and the Chamber—obstructed and delayed the committees’ investigation.

The report was released on the eve of a Wednesday morning Senate hearing hosted by Whitehouse. The House panel’s ranking member, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.)—who participated in a related October 2021 event in the lower chamber—is expected to join multiple experts in testifying.

“We applaud Sen. Whitehouse, Rep. Raskin, and their committees for helping to shine further light on Big Oil’s ongoing climate deception,” said Wiles. “Communities across the country are already taking these polluters to court to make them pay for their deceit, and many of their lawsuits have cited documents unearthed by Congress as evidence.”

“Big Oil’s concerted efforts to mislead the public about their destructive industry are the most consequential corporate fraud in history,” he continued. “Tomorrow’s hearing should make clear that it’s time for the U.S. Justice Department to get off the sidelines and take action to hold Big Oil accountable for lying to the American people for decades.”

Wiles was far from alone in demanding action from the Biden administration based on the committees’ findings.

“This report is a scathing indictment of the fossil fuel industry’s lies and corruption,” declared Cassidy DiPaola, a spokesperson for the Make Polluters Pay campaign. “As the impacts of the climate crisis worsen, from deadly heatwaves to devastating floods and wildfires, it’s never been more important to hold polluters accountable for the damage they’ve knowingly caused. The Senate Budget Committee’s investigation is a critical step towards justice, and it’s time the Biden administration follows suit.”

Sunrise Movement executive director Aru Shiney-Ajay urged President Joe Biden—who is seeking reelection in November—to “fight for young people by holding companies like Exxon accountable for their climate lies.”

“President Biden must hold Big Oil responsible by declaring a climate emergency and suing fossil fuel companies for creating the climate crisis and lying to the public about it,” Shiney-Ajay said. “For too long we’ve seen fossil fuel companies like Exxon and Chevron deny the cause of the climate crisis and pretend to fight for climate action, all the while lining their pockets with bigger and bigger returns. This must stop and the president can do something about it.”

“Biden must direct the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute fossil fuel companies like Exxon for their disinformation,” she argued. “Until the administration starts treating Big Oil like Big Tobacco, everyday Americans will continue to pay for their lies with flooded homes, hotter summers, and more extreme weather.”


Jessica Corbett is a senior editor and staff writer for Common Dreams. This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.


This Fortnight in 1892

The Festive Tramp

Prof. McCook, of Hartford, has been investigating the tramp question and finds that out of a total of 1,295 of professional tie-counters, fifty-six per cent. were American born, ninety percent could read and write, that 459 of them claimed to be strictly temperate, while thirty of them claimed to be total abstainers.

New Hampshire Gazette, May 5, 1892, pg. 8.


Man the builder (center, bottom) boldly stabs the sky with beams of steel; not shown: the invisible hand of the market, which directs his efforts. As if by a miracle, this collaboration of labor and management will transform a previously-underperforming parcel of real estate, subject since the 1840s, and into the forseeable future, to a hundred-decibel cacophony of screeching steel wheels, clanging crossing bells, and miscellaneous horns and whistles, into sixteen units crammed full of “Luxury Appointments For Those Who Admire Distinction”—and can pay an $18,000 monthly mortgage.


Leaked State Department Memo: Israeli Assurances “Neither Credible Nor Reliable”

by Jake Johnson

A newly leaked internal memo shows that officials at four U.S. State Department bureaus don’t believe the Israeli government’s assurances that it is using American weaponry in Gaza in compliance with international law, rejecting them as “neither credible nor reliable.”

The memo, first reported by Reuters on Saturday, is a joint submission from the State Department’s bureaus of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; Population, Refugees, and Migration; Global Criminal Justice; and International Organization Affairs.

The leaked document raises “serious concern over non-compliance” with international law, specifically citing the Israeli military’s repeated attacks on civilian infrastructure, refusal to investigate or punish those responsible for atrocities, and killing of “humanitarian workers and journalists at an unprecedented rate,” according to Reuters.

The memo also points to Israel’s arbitrary rejection of humanitarian aid trucks, which has fueled famine in the Gaza Strip. The bureaus’ conclusion matches that of officials at the United States Agency for International Development.

Human rights groups have been documenting Israel’s atrocities and systematic obstruction of aid for months, but the Biden administration has continued approving weapons sales for the Netanyahu government despite U.S. laws prohibiting arms transfers to countries violating human rights and blocking American humanitarian assistance.

Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), said Saturday that “the State Department’s leaked confirmation that Israel has restricted the transport and delivery of U.S. humanitarian assistance leaves no doubt: U.S. law requires the suspension of military aid to Israel.”

“For too long, the Biden administration has breached or ignored U.S. laws that require the suspension of aid to an abusive regime like Israel, fueling Israeli belligerence and rewarding its atrocities,” said Whitson. “It’s time for real consequences.”

“Suspending military aid is the bare minimum the U.S. must do to avoid further complicity in these abuses.”

In March, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant penned a letter assuring the Biden administration that the Israeli military’s use of American weaponry has been in line with international law. A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department subsequently indicated that the Biden administration has not found Israel “to be in violation of international humanitarian law,” drawing outrage from analysts and members of Congress who say it is obvious Israel is committing war crimes in Gaza.

The U.S. State Department is expected to deliver its final assessment of Israel’s assurances to Congress in early May.

The written assurances from Israel were required under a White House policy known as National Security Memorandum 20 (NSM-20), which has the ostensible aim of preventing “arms transfers that risk facilitating or otherwise contributing to violations of human rights or international humanitarian law.”

NSM-20 states that “in furtherance of supporting Section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2378-1) and applicable international law,” the U.S. will “obtain credible and reliable written assurances from a representative of the recipient country as the Secretary of State deems appropriate that, in any area of armed conflict where the recipient country uses such defense articles, consistent with applicable international law, the recipient country will facilitate and not arbitrarily deny, restrict, or otherwise impede, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance and United States Government-supported international efforts to provide humanitarian assistance.”

Raed Jarrar, DAWN’s advocacy director, said Saturday that “Section 620I has been rendered toothless by State Department inaction and special treatment for Israel.”

“Today’s leak should mark a final end to this impunity. President Biden has no choice but to fully enforce the law and halt aid to Israel,” said Jarrar. “From bombing residential towers to blocking food and medicine, Israel’s war on Gaza has been marked by utter disregard for civilian life and international law. Suspending military aid is the bare minimum the U.S. must do to avoid further complicity in these abuses. But it’s an essential first step to show that even Israel is not above the law.”

Details of the internal State Department memo emerged just days after Congress gave final approval to a foreign aid package that includes $17 billion in unconditional military assistance for the Israeli government.

In a joint statement on Friday, dozens of civil society groups warned that the newly approved military aid risks deepening U.S. complicity in an assault that has killed more than 34,000 people and put millions at risk of starvation.

“Not only does this supplemental aid package provide Israel with billions in lethal arms, it also provides the country with privileges above and beyond anything it has ever received, in particular for the war reserve stockpile and offshore procurement,” the groups said. “The passage of the supplemental bill further risks U.S. complicity in grave international crimes committed by Israel.”

“We urge the administration and Congress to uphold U.S. law and policy and international law by withholding the transfer of additional lethal military aid to Israel,” they added.


Jake Johnson is a senior editor and staff writer for Common Dreams. This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.


Readers may recall our January 9th lament about burnt-out bulbs in the Yoken’s sign. A recent quick glimpse fooled our Wandering Photographer into thinking that it might have been restored to its formerly radiant state. A return trip on Sunday revealed that while it’s in better shape now than it was in January—“Good Things To Eat” is back, and the wavy lines at the bottom—the whale’s outline and the spouting water are still MIA.


Climate Change Impact On Seabrook Nuke Plant Demands Deeper Reporting

[Note: Doug Bogen gave us his permission to publish the following letter to the editor of the Portsmouth Herald. Perhaps if we ever get organized we’ll manage to scrutinize the GAO report he mentions below. We can assure readers that the NRC appears to be satisfied that the owners of the Seabrook nuke appear to be proposing to fend off sea level rise with… sandbags. – The Ed.]

Once again, an article in the Portsmouth Herald, April 11th, on the recent U.S Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) failures to address climate impacts on nuclear plants read like an NRC press release. Given that the report was strongly critical of existing NRC policies when it comes to a changing climate, this reporting approach does a disservice to the public’s right to know what growing risks climate change poses to key infrastructure like Seabrook and other nuclear plants.

Anyone who has followed the development of climate science in recent decades and is familiar with the location of the Seabrook plant is well aware that such facilities are increasingly vulnerable to climate impacts, yet somehow this realization has escaped the purview of the NRC to date. The NRC did get something of a “wake up” call over a decade ago with the onset of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. While that destruction was due to a earthquake/tsunami and not climatic forces, the resulting inundation, off-site power outage and resulting reactor meltdowns were very similar to what extreme storm damage could be expected to accomplish under a changed climate regime.

Yet in 2018, when the NRC subsequently required nuclear plants to assess their vulnerability and response to extreme weather impacts, they used historical data that doesn’t reflect current trends and future projections. In the case of Seabrook, this analysis nevertheless led to possible impacts “not bounded by the current design basis,” which is engineer-speak for unprepared-for flooding of key safety structures at the plant. Their main solution was installation of sand bags during an extreme storm event.

Given this record, this GAO report should be a further wake up call to the NRC as well as neighboring residents that the Seabrook plant is vulnerable and could pose an additional threat in the face of ongoing climate disruption, but only if this news is fairly and accurately reported on by local media.

Doug Bogen, Executive Director, Seacoast Anti-Pollution League


Ports. Dem. Roundtable on May 14th

Portsmouth Democrats hold a roundtable at a local restaurant on the 2nd Tuesday of every month. The next will be on May 14th from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. It’s an opportunity for new residents and old friends to socialize without any agenda or rigid structure. New residents can meet those involved in the Portsmouth Democrats and learn of opportunities to get involved, suggest new ideas, or be supportive of planned initiatives. In June the Roundtable will be held on June 11th. For location and other information contact Peter Somssich at (603) 436-5382 (No Texts Please) or email peter.somssich@gmail.com.


This Fortnight in 1892

The necessity of more room in the Boston & Maine freight yard here has long been apparent and it is reported that a large portion of the lower end of the north mill pond will soon be filled in to give the needed space for tracks.

There was more drunkenness visible on the streets last Sunday than ever before on the Sabbath… .

New Hampshire Gazette, May 12, 1892, pg. 6.

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