Committee Analysis of Fossil Fuel Industry’s Lobbying Reveals Public Praise for Climate Policies Is Not Backed by Meaningful Action

Oct 28, 2021
Press Release
Staff Memo Comes Ahead of Historic Hearing with Top Fossil Fuel Executives

Washington, D.C. (Oct. 28, 2021)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, released a new staff memo analyzing lobbying data from ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, and the American Petroleum Institute (API).  The memo indicates that the oil industry’s public support for climate reforms has not been matched by meaningful action to advance these policy results, and that the industry may be using support for reforms to bolster its public image while continuing to produce and invest in fossil fuels—actions that are making the climate crisis worse.


“Today’s staff memo shows Big Oil’s campaign to ‘greenwash’ their role in the climate crisis in action,” Chairwoman Maloney said.  “These oil companies pay lip service to climate reforms, but behind the scenes they spend far more time lobbying to preserve their lucrative tax breaks.  At today’s Committee hearing, we will demand accountability from Big Oil for their role in fueling the climate crisis and deceiving the public, and we will urge the industry to finally take meaningful action to rein in emissions from fossil fuels before it is too late.”


All four oil companies and API claim to the Paris Agreement and carbon pricing.  However, an analysis of federal lobbying disclosures by the Committee staff shows that these entities spent hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying on legislative priorities over the past decade—yet only a tiny fraction of that lobbying activity was in support of the Paris Agreement or carbon pricing.  This analysis found:


  • Exxon, Chevron, Shell, BP, and API spent a combined $452.6 million lobbying the federal government since 2011.  The four oil ​giants employed an average of around 40 lobbyists per year and spent a combined total of $374.7 million on federal lobbying, while API employed an average of 48 lobbyists per year and spent $78 million.


  • Almost none of Big Oil’s lobbying on legislation since 2015 was devoted to the Paris Agreement or related legislation.  Big Oil reported 4,597 instances of legislative lobbying in this period, yet reported only eight instances of lobbying on the Paris Agreement, and none on any of the legislation related to the agreement—an amount equivalent to 0.17% of these entities’ total legislative lobbying in that period.


  • Less than 0.4% of Big Oil’s legislative lobbying over the last decade was on carbon pricing legislation.  The four oil companies and API have publicly embraced carbon pricing as a way to address the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change, yet less than 0.4% of their lobbying on specific legislation since 2011 was on carbon pricing legislation.


  • Big Oil devoted far more effort to lobbying to lower its taxes than on either the Paris Agreement or carbon pricing legislation.  Since 2011, these entities filed 1,670 lobbying reports, 938 of which—over 56%—showed lobbying on tax issues. 


The memo also found that the four oil companies’ public claims about their efforts to reduce emissions have often exaggerated the significance of their actions while hiding or downplaying their continued investments in fossil fuels.  For example:


  • ExxonMobil reportedly invested only 0.22% of its capital expenditures in low-carbon projects between 2010 and 2018.  In 2018, the company announced a seven-year, $210 billion investment plan that would increase oil and gas production and would result in the company’s yearly CO2 emissions increasing 17% by 2025.


  • Only 2.3% of BP’s total capital expenditures went to low-carbon investments between 2010 and 2018.  By 2013 the company had quietly divested itself of all its solar and wind power assets.


  • Chevron has touted carbon capture programs that will barely make a dent in its overall emissions.  The company said these investments would reduce its emissions by 5 million tonnes a year, but failed to note this would amount to a reduction of just 0.7% of Chevron’s total carbon emissions, which reached 697 million tonnes in 2019.


  • Shell’s 2020 emissions were nearly twice that of the entire nation of Canada, and the company plans to increase natural gas extraction by 20%, raising questions about its stated “target” to reach carbon neutrality.


Click here to read the Committee staff memo.


Click here to watch the Committee hearing.



117th Congress