Big oil’s own scientists knew the industry threatened the world at least as far back as the early 1980s, and Rep. Katie Porter (D-Cal) knows that demonstrative evidence can help mitigate that threat.
Oil industry executives were certainly aware of the fact that this week was one of the most consecutive in years, perhaps decades. The industry has faced direct confrontations with Congress, courts and a world summit.
CEOs of companies leading the largest economic sector on the planet have faced dwindling questions from Congress asking political veterans comparing the “atmosphere” (no pun intended) on Capitol Hill to the grilling Big Tobacco in 1994 The tobacco industry’s trials have helped build momentum. which resulted in a $ 206 billion settlement, which significantly changed its reach and power.
The CEOs of the world’s largest oil companies would like to write a $ 206 billion check and new restrictions today to avoid what they face in the near future.
Much of the focus in the committee hearings centered around internal industry documents showing that the companies knew their product as far back as the late 1970s and early 80s posed serious threats to the earth’s climate. As just one example, the committee pointed to an internal memo from 1982 that predicted a future that was frighteningly accurate:
[Exxon’s own report states], “our best estimate is that doubling the current concentration can increase the average global temperature by about 1.3 degrees Celsius to 3.1 degrees Celsius.” Glaser acknowledges that there is “considerable uncertainty” about the impact this warming will have on society and that “there is currently no unequivocal scientific evidence that the earth is heating up.” Glaser writes that greenhouse effect could be detected by 1995 or 2020 if the climate models exaggerate.
The devastating memo led to some devastating inquiries directed at the executives of Exxon and Shell, while sending a message to all concerned. But it was Katie Porter, whose demonstrative questions were posed to Shell and Exxon using rice and M & Ms, who dominated the news that came out of the trial.
Porter’s rice puts industrial land use in perspective:
This is definitely one of the more amazing visual aids I have ever seen during a congressional hearing. pic.twitter.com/6aKKAvZtX6
– Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) 28 October 2021
If that wasn’t enough, she then used M & Ms to mock self-serving allegations that companies are investing heavily in renewable energy:
lol Katie Porter uses a pot of M & Ms to show how little Shell spends renewable energy pic.twitter.com/BvwLBHMGDk
– Acyn (@Acyn) 28 October 2021
The questions come during a week in which world leaders, including President Joe Biden, will meet in Glasgow, Scotland, to discuss collaborative emission limits by certain dates.
But those internal documents themselves could pose a greater threat to the industry than Congress and even world leaders. The documents unequivocally prove that the industry’s companies’ forty years of denial, lobbying and falsified scientific studies were all meant to fraudulently prove that climate change is a fraud in an effort to protect profits.
Lawsuits have already been filed (some will be filed directly by governments) based on the willful fraud and consequential damages. Monetary judgments in cases of this type, the type with “intentional misconduct” are not only limited to the economic value of the damage caused, but may include punitive damages, damages intended solely to punish such blatant greed-based fraud . One cannot “punish” companies like this without digging deep into their profits. It is quite possible that the oil industry is now facing convictions consisting of trillions of dollars and court orders changes to its business model.
The world has always known that rice and M & Ms were invaluable, but no one ever thought they could play a small role in saving that same world. It is now up to the oil industry to play a major role.