In response to the oil and gas industry’s attempts to preserve access to billions in federal subsidies, Greenpeace USA took a closer look at the membership of the American Exploration and Production Council (AXPC).
Greenpeace analysis revealed that the oil and gas companies that are members of the AXPC received major federal subsidies valued at least $92 billion since 1998, racked up hundreds of millions in environmental and other fines since 2000, took millions more in the recent COVID-19 bailout packages, laid off workers, and lavished CEOs with extravagant pay in 2020.
The oil and gas industry works through trade associations to shield its member companies and executives from scrutiny. An Exxon senior federal lobbyist appears to reveal this strategy to the world in a Channel 4 and Unearthed news story:
“We don’t want it to be us, to have these conversations, especially in a hearing. It’s getting our associations to step in and have those conversations and answer those tough questions and be, for the lack of a better term, the whipping boy for some of these members of Congress.”
The oil industry is desperately trying to preserve its favorable tax treatment as an intense campaign to eliminate billions of dollars in oil and gas subsidies gains momentum. AXPC deployed a big PR campaign and lobbying blitz to convince policymakers to cave to oil industry demands and abandon a core priority of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.
The Stockholm Environment Institute recently published a pair of studies looking at the impact of a range of U.S. oil and gas subsidies. This research found that when oil prices are higher, subsidies tend to pad company profits, whereas when oil prices are lower, the subsidies can push marginal drilling projects over the threshold into profitability, thereby increasing production.
The fossil fuel industry is trading short-term profits for the health and safety of the planet. Increased oil and gas production means extracting, refining, and burning fossil fuels and poisoning the air and water of nearby communities, which are disproportionately Black, Brown, Indigenous, and poor.
Air pollution from fossil fuels killed 8.7 million people globally in 2018 alone. In the United States, air pollution from burning fossil fuels is linked to an estimated 350,000 deaths every year, with disproportionate impacts on communities of color.
Subsidies to companies that poison our communities are clearly out of step with climate justice and the global consensus to end fossil fuel expansion and mount a legitimate response to the crisis. Lawmakers must stay united, overcome the Big Oil propaganda and pressure campaign, and deliver common-sense climate policy during our collective “code red moment for humanity.” It is time to end fossil fuel subsidies. Full stop.
Damning Quotes from the Exxon Tapes—and How We Fight Back
Earlier this year the UK news network Channel 4 and Unearthed released footage that appears to show Exxon lobbyists admitting to their past and present involvement in undermining climate science and watering down federal solutions to address the climate crisis.
In case you missed it, here are a few notable quotes from the news story.
“When you have an opportunity to talk to a member of Congress, I liken it to fishing, right? You know you have bait, you throw that bait out.”
In 2020, the oil, gas, and coal industry spent more than $115 million lobbying Congress in defense of fossil fuel subsidies; currently, the industry receives 15 billion of our tax dollars in direct federal subsidies every year. All told, that amounts to a return on investment of over 13,000% for these corporations annually.
They seem to be flaunting the misinformation campaign that contributed to delayed climate action:
“Did we aggressively fight against some of the [climate] science? Yes … Did we join some of these shadow groups to work against some of the early efforts? Yes, that’s true.”
In 1978, James Black of Exxon’s Research & Engineering division wrote an internal briefing paper entitled “The Greenhouse Effect,” outlining that anthropogenic emissions could raise global temperatures and result in serious harms to the planet and humanity. Black even warned Exxon that the timeframe for climate action was narrow. That analysis was published 43 years ago. In the intervening decades, Exxon has repeatedly mobilized to fight against climate science, despite their long-held knowledge internally that they were actively perpetuating environmental damage. Exxon knew. And together, we can hold the oil giant accountable.
“It’s going to accelerate the transition to the extent that I think 4 years from now it’s going to be difficult to unwind that.”
If there’s a silver lining in these quotes, it’s this: an admission that if climate provisions are successfully passed and implemented as part of the Biden administration’s agenda, it will be hard for fossil fuel producers like Exxon to roll back new standards.
We must stop fossil fuel companies from continuing to undermine our democracy and get in the way of real climate solutions. Congress must represent the people, not Big Oil, and enact climate provisions that are essential to avoiding a climate catastrophe.