Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), chair of the House Oversight Committee, and Ro Khanna (D-CA), the environmental subcommittee chair, recently held a hearing titled “Fueling the Climate Crisis: Exposing Big Oil’s Disinformation Campaign to Prevent Climate Action” to expose “the fossil fuel industry’s long-running, industry-wide campaign to spread disinformation about the role of fossil fuels in causing global warming.”
Early reports foreshadowed that this hearing would channel the blockbuster tobacco hearing of 1994, where members’ pointed questioning painted fat cat corporate executives as shameless liars and ultimately yielded public smoking bans and other policy changes throughout the 50 states.
Unfortunately for the Democrats, this latest hearing ended up being far from the triumph of 1994. Truth be told, Democrats exposed themselves — not the fossil fuel executives — as the climate hypocrites.
The hearing opened with oil executives highlighting some of the issues surrounding fossil fuels — past, present, and future. Some of these issues include the extent of human impact on the climate, the future need for fossil fuels, and preserving energy independence. But Maloney claimed in her remarks that the executives were obviously lying.
So, what was the apparent lie that executives were spinning?
Did they deny that the climate is changing? Well, no. In fact, they very much agreed. There was some debate about the extent of human impact on the environment, but that fell in line with the healthy ongoing debate within the scientific community.
What about the claim we’ll still need fossil fuels regardless of whatever radical green energy policy environmental activists cook up?
They’re not lying about that either. “In a carbon-constrained future, fossil fuels would still make up 77 percent of global energy demand,” according to Wood Mackenzie. Democrats can yell all they want about shifting to renewables. Still, the facts remain that on reliability grounds, fossil fuels will be needed to meet global demand for decades to come.
What about the issues surrounding foreign dependency?
No lie detected there. As America faces the reality of its future energy production needs, it will have to make a choice — a choice between producing the materials it needs for its own energy or letting adversarial nations like China do it instead. The best option, one that the executives highlighted, is clear to anyone with a rational mind.
So, no, it’s not clear that the oil executives lied at the hearing at all. Why would Democratic leadership try to turn these executives who work every day to keep America powered up into sacrificial lambs?
Perhaps Ms. Maloney was just doing a bit of projecting to protect herself. After all, nonpartisan watchdogs have tagged her for over $100,000 in campaign contributions from the energy industry. Even after signing a “no fossil fuel” pledge last cycle, the New York congresswoman still took in $12,000 from oil and gas for next year’s midterms.
Perhaps she’s hoping shaming executives publicly will help deflect attention away from her oil-soaked past. She once ranked as high as ninth in terms of oil investment for House lawmakers. That’s even counting Republicans. Her entire political history suggests that she depends on fossil fuels just like everyone else in the country.
Ms. Maloney apparently still uses cars, planes, and stoves. Unless she’s resorted to Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) levels of energy independence – living in an off-the-grid home and driving a Telsa - it appears she’s closer to the energy hypocrisy problem than are the executives that are the subject of her finger-pointing games.
What about Ms. Maloney’s partner in political preening, environmental subcommittee chair Ro Khanna? Was he any better?
Mr. Khanna demanded that oil executives commit to an “independent audit to verify that none of [their] funds are going to climate denial.” But perhaps Democrat activists should push for an audit of Mr. Khanna’s family finances instead.
Newsweek recently reported Mr. Khanna’s family purchased between $30,000 and $100,000 in stock from ExxonMobil and Chevron. The report also says that they purchased $3,003 to $45,000 worth of shares in the natural gas companies Dominion Energy, Duke, and ConocoPhillips.
This revelation has put Mr. Khanna on the defensive, but it’s clear he’s the one in denial.
Mr. Khanna has consistently ranked as one of the wealthiest members of Congress, and oil and gas have made up as much as $1.6 million of assets in that fortune. While the California congressman claims he’s divesting from the fossil fuel industry, his recent campaign reports indicate he’s accepted over $11,000 in contributions from oil for the current cycle. And just like Ms. Maloney, Mr. Khanna doesn’t seem to pass the “Massie Test” of energy independence.
If anything was obvious from this hearing, it’s that the hypocrites were asking the questions, not answering them.
It’s no secret that Democrats have been struggling this year with crises piling up left and right. Whether it’s Afghanistan, inflation, supply chain issues, progressive resistance, or President Joe Biden’s tanking poll numbers, the party of the left is flailing as the midterm approaches.
Perhaps they were hoping this hearing would make a few good soundbites to give to their base, but just like everything else they’ve done this year, it ended in absolute failure.
• J.D. Hayworth served as a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 2007 from Arizona’s 5th Congressional District.