At the start of July, an ExxonMobil lobbyist was caught on tape talking about how they use front groups like the American Petroleum Institute to argue on their behalf, using the group as an “umbrella” to hide their lobbying. In this case, it was about toxic forever chemicals that the government was considering regulating, but to stall things, Exxon, through API, pushed for just a study of the issue. “And that damps down the rhetoric. It damps down the excitement. And we start having a conversation with the API and the coalition to say: ‘Look, let’s propose a study. Let’s see if we can get a study.’”
They got that study, and he said “that completely lowered the temperature” and gave them a talking point to further stall legislative efforts: “let’s wait for the results of that study before we start moving forward on this.”
Having been exposed as the oil industry’s “umbrella” that does things like push for studies as a bad faith excuse for delaying action, what was API’s response?
Apparently to cook up another “study” about how wonderfully amazing natural gas and oil are for the country’s economy. Supposedly the industry “supports 11.3 million total American jobs in 2019 across all 50 states” with a “total impact on U.S. GDP” that added up to $1.7 trillion, or “nearly 8 percent of the national total in 2019.”
Left unsaid, of course, was the oil and gas industry’s share of American greenhouse gas emissions. According to the EIA, “in 2019, fossil fuels were the source of about 74% of total U.S. human-caused (anthropogenic) greenhouse gas emissions.”
Whoopsies! Turns out the fossil fuel industry’s share of the climate problem is nearly ten times greater than its share of GDP, illustrating just how hard it will be to keep the climate safe if we don’t bring fossil fuel emissions down to zero.
But despite its newfound desire to look like it’s playing nice on climate, API’s report on the “impacts of the oil and natural gas industry on the US economy in 2019” had nothing to say about climate change or greenhouse gasses. It somehow didn’t seem worth mentioning that the oil and gas industry, if allowed to pollute unabated, would likely cause so much warming it’d cost the US over 10% of its GDP by the end of this century, and definitely didn’t bring up that 2019 alone saw 14 weather and climate disasters that each cost over a billion dollars. (And for those keeping score at home, 22 billion dollar disasters in 2020!)
But who would expect them to? Certainly not anyone who read Chris McGreal’s recent Guardian story about API’s history of turning oil companies’ money into organized climate denial campaigns.
So if you’re wondering what kind of stuff Shell gets in exchange for donating $10 million to API, along with other oil companies who aren’t disclosing such figures, take a look at the report API commissioned from PwC. No doubt analysts whose paychecks aren’t coming from the oil industry would see plenty of misleading omissions, distortions and errors, whereas clever political pundits might have thoughts about the 14 states chosen for extra attention. Could it be that the states selected were heavily reliant on fossil fuels, biasing the findings?
If this were an actual peer-reviewed study, and not just called a study commissioned by API in hopes people don’t realize it’s an oil-funded analysis to make the industry look good, those questions might have been answered.
Of course, as McGreal reports, “API is also fighting a growing number of lawsuits, led by the state of Minnesota, alleging that the trade group was at the heart of a decades-long ‘disinformation campaign’ on behalf of big oil to deny the threat from fossil fuels.”
We’re inclined to agree with everything, except of course the “was,” which makes it sound like, at some point, API stopped being at the heart of the industry’s disinformation campaigns.
Today’s Top Climate and Clean Energy Stories:
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.