House Democrats celebrated seven-year-high gas prices Thursday with a show trial demonizing the widespread use of fossil fuels provided by an industry that has kept costs low.
Frequently invoking the big tobacco hearings three decades ago, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee sought to indict oil executives as the primary culprits of climate change just as cigarettes are for cancer.
“Twenty-seven years ago, seven tobacco executives appeared in this room before Congress. Rather than admitting the truth about their product, the executives lied,” said Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., in her opening statement. “This was a watershed moment in the public’s understanding of big tobacco. I hope that today’s hearing represents a turning point for big oil.”
Maloney called the hearing with Environmental Subcommittee Chairman Ro Khanna, D-Calif., —both of whom have raked in thousands from oil and gas profits — for the explicit purpose of stigmatizing “big oil” as “big tobacco” with allegations the industry was engaged in a campaign to discredit claims of climate change.
“We are deeply concerned that the fossil fuel industry has reaped massive profits for decades while contributing to climate change that is devastating American communities, costing taxpayers billions of dollars, and ravaging the natural world,” they wrote in a September statement. “We are also concerned that to protect those profits, the industry has reportedly led a coordinated effort to spread disinformation to mislead the public and prevent crucial action to address climate change.”
Four companies and two trade groups were represented, including Shell, ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the American Petroleum Institute (API).
The faux righteous indignation erased the distinction between tobacco as a chemically addictive substance that is the leading cause of preventable death to fossil fuels, which have powered human ability to reach record-life spans coupled with a high standard of living. Throughout the hearing, Democrats regurgitated doom-and-gloom predictions of unmitigated climate catastrophe absent significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. They placed blame solely on the fuel industry.
All witnesses declared climate change an existential threat in their opening statements, while touting private-sector innovation that’s led to a major reduction in U.S. air pollution even without major legislation. Democrats, however, who failed by two votes to pass the $150 billion Clean Energy Power Plan (CEPP) that would have punished utilities’ use of fossil fuels, branded the companies as maliciously complicit in the destruction of the planet.
“They promise they will reduce their carbon emissions and even aspire to net-zero emissions and they have spent billions of dollars on PR firms to paint themselves as climate champions, but big oil’s actions tell a different story,” Maloney said in her opening. “These companies not only continue to sell millions of barrels of oil every day, they are also investing in new oil fields.”
The chairwoman’s statement illustrated Democrats’ preferred energy policy throughout the hearing: an abrupt halt to the production of cheap, reliable energy from fossil fuels, substituted by unreliable wind and solar. The nation’s seven-year-high gas prices driven up by President Joe Biden’s suppression of domestic supply has become step one. While driving up prices, the administration has pled with producers to boost output after its pleas for overseas adversaries to do the same met with rejection.
Despite each witness acknowledging climate change as an issue, Democrats continued their public tarring as crusaders for catastrophe. Missouri Rep. Cori Bush demanded each member of the panel “resign” for “attacks on humanity.”
After opening with an attempt to relitigate former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment over the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Maryland Rep. Jaime Raskin railed at the industry as engaged in corporate “propaganda campaigns.”
California Rep. Katie Porter appeared to interrogate the industry for objecting to Biden’s illegal suspension of new oil and gas leases, with her gas-guzzling minivan as a visual.
Democrat Rep. Katie Porter appears to use a gas-powered van as a visual in her interrogation of oil executives pic.twitter.com/wFdVmzoJxk
— Tristan Justice (@JusticeTristan) October 28, 2021
Republicans were frequently apologetic to the corporate captains of fossil fuels for the latter being dragged over the coals in the six-hour hearing. Sympathetic lawmakers often highlighted private innovation that has reduced emissions while maintaining an abundant supply of reliable energy.
“The United States has led the world. We’ve reduced emissions more than the next 12 emissions-reducing countries combined,” said Louisiana Rep. Garret Graves. “These are the people that did that.”
Electric power emissions fell 33 percent since 2007 primarily as a consequence of innovation and the switch from coal to natural gas. China remains the world’s largest polluter, and its president, Xi Jinping, will be absent from the upcoming global summit on climate change in Europe.
Republicans outlined how Democrats energy strategy empowers adversaries and damages American workers. Forfeiting energy independence through the shutdown and suppression of American producers, as Biden has done, requires the U.S. to rely on overseas supply to rescue gaps in supply. The shift to wind and solar give China an advantage as it maintains a monopoly on the rare earth minerals required for production.
Chinese-manufactured solar panels meanwhile have only been made affordable through the use of high-emitting coal and slave labor.
“I’m just asking our own president, treat the United States like you’re treating other countries,” Graves said, as Biden encouraged production abroad.
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan called the president’s race to shut down oil and gas operations in the United States while begging the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to ramp up output “the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
Georgia Rep. Jody Hice also railed against Biden’s decision to green-light Russia’s Nord Stream 2 that feeds natural gas into Germany after the president killed the Keystone XL pipeline.
“What kind of Russian collusion was involved in that deal, I wonder,” Hice mocked in reference to the years-long conspiracy Democrats amplified, which falsely accused President Trump of serving as a Russian agent.
Present at the hearing was former Keystone employee Neal Crabtree, a welder who has continued to struggle to find work as Democrats stifle power projects in the name of climate change.