U.S. House Investigation Of Big Oil Produces ‘Nothingburger’ Report

Despite promises that a year-long congressional investigation into oil companies spreading climate disinformation," the report was released without any press conference and without any bombshell revelations.

December 15, 20224 min read

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The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform has dropped its report on a year-long investigation into the internal communications of major oil companies. 

The investigation promised to reveal the companies’ role in spreading “climate disinformation” and resistance to taking action to address climate change. 

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Califiornia, who led the probe, told E&E News in the leadup to the report that the investigation’s findings would be a resource for climate activism for the next decade. 


The report the committee released last week came without any press conference and produced no bombshell revelations. 

Among the findings, according to a statement on the report, major oil companies have no real intention of depriving people of natural gas, which currently supplies 32% of U.S. energy consumption and a fourth of the world’s energy consumption. 

Highlights from the report found that Chevron CEO Mike Wirth gave a slide presentation in which the oil and gas company would “continue to invest” in oil and gas production. 

An internal email from the Petroleum Institute showed the organization would continue “in a carbon-constrained economy” to promote natural gas, which has been a main driver of decreases of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. down to levels they were at in the early 1990s. 

Big ‘Nothingburger’

“Despite a year-long investigation, the House Oversight Committee report was a giant nothingburger which only revealed that U.S. oil and natural gas companies are focused on producing oil and natural gas,” Will Allison, spokesperson for Energy In Depth, told Cowboy State Daily. 

Energy In Depth is an online resource of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. 

Ryan McConnaughey, spokesperson for the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, said the investigation was a waste of time on their part. 

The “report shows that there was nothing there, and even the chairman had to admit that. So, they were just trying to make something out of nothing,” McConnaughey said. 

Khanna told NBC News and E&E News that part of the intention of the investigation was to take whatever documents were acquired through the subpoenas and give them to “those with more resources” who could act on the information. 

Exactly who those with more resources would be, Khanna didn’t tell either publication.

“The fact remains that the industry continues to provide the energy our country and the world needs, and is doing it cleaner than ever,” Allison said. 

Mixed Messages

The investigation is part of a pattern of mixed messages in which the oil and gas industry is vilified for producing oil and gas, then criticized for not producing enough to lower energy prices. 

The committee members, including Khanna, grilled oil executives at a hearing in October 2021 about if they had any commitments to lowering oil and gas production. 

Khanna asked the CEOs if they were “embarrassed” about producing oil. 

By the following March, with gas prices soaring, Khanna told Bloomberg that oil and gas companies needed to increase production to bring energy costs down. 

He would continue to blame their lack of production on gas prices through last summer, while at the same time threatening tax increases. 

“This is just an example of the administration and members of Congress knowing that people can’t live without oil and gas products, but need a villain for their storyline to help support their campaign coffers and get money from their donors,” McConnaughey said. 

Risky Investments

He said the mixed messages have a detrimental effect on the industry because investors need some level of certainty before they put their money on the line. Constant threats and growing regulatory burden are increasing the risk and scaring off capital. 

“That’s really what the damage is here,” McConnaughey said. 

Allison said that there are a lot of people in Congress with the attitude that oil companies can just ramp up production short-term when gas prices get too high, but the structure of investments in the industry require much longer commitments to get any return. 

They just don’t seem to understand that, Allison said. 

“Throughout this investigation, Democrats on the committee pushed mixed messages, attacking the industry for boosting production one day, while lamenting record high gasoline prices the next day,” Allison said. “Now that this charade is over, it’s time to work together to enable a strong American energy sector.”

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