Senate Democrats, Hollywood Likely To Continue Oil Conspiracy Probes

When a U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee investigation into oil companies alleged deceptions fizzled out, it was thought the effort was finished. It now appears Senate Democrats will pick up where their House counterparts left off.

January 18, 20235 min read

Collage Maker 17 Jan 2023 07 21 PM

By Kevin Killough, State Energy Reporter

Despite years of efforts to prove a conspiracy on the part of oil companies to deceive the public about climate change, it appears Democrats in the U.S. Senate are poised to pick up where House Democrats left off last year. 

Job postings on the Senate website hint that the Senate Budget Committee will continue the effort.  

Activist Coordination

Will Allison, spokesperson for Energy In Depth (EID), told Cowboy State Daily that the real conspiracy is coordination between activists and elected officials on these investigations.

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

Fox News reported in August that Hollywood celebrity Leonardo DiCaprio was an integral part of the climate litigation campaign.

Through open records litigation, the outlet obtained emails showing that DiCaprio’s nonprofit foundation funneled money to a law firm that was leading the nationwide climate nuisance lawsuits. 

This “further demonstrates that the climate litigation campaign is a coordinated, national effort, rather than a loose collection of state and local cases,” Allison said. 

A study published last week in the journal Science assessed ExxonMobile internal climate models and found them to be accurate. 

Various comments in the media and emails by company officials, however, expressed uncertainty about the models. 

The study’s conclusion is that they knew about global warming and ignored it. 

Exxon spokesperson told E&E News that the company’s research into global warming produced nearly 150 papers, including 50 peer-reviewed publications, all of which the company made publicly available. 

“This is just the next page in their failing playbook as they seek to stay relevant,” Mandi Risko, spokesperson for EID, wrote on the EID Climate and Environment blog. 

Job Postings

Incoming Senate Budget Committee Chair Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, who is taking over the position held by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, has long been an outspoken supporter of investigating the alleged wrongdoings of oil companies.

The job postings suggest he may resume the investigations when he takes the gavel from Sanders. 

One job posting for a “climate policy expert” for the incoming Senate Budget Committee majority seeks someone “with a deep background in climate and environmental matters.” 

Another posting seeks an oversight director. 

“Ideal candidates will have experience working on corporate accountability issues, particularly with respect to the fossil fuel industry, climate change and identifying sources of dark money in political influencing campaigns,” the job posting, which is no longer listed, stated. 

Digging For Disinformation

Considering how an investigation by Democrats in the U.S. House last year turned out, some thought the effort had finally come to an end. 

The U.S. House Committee On Oversight and Reform promised a “bombshell” report from its investigation into oil companies, which Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California, who led the investigation, claimed were spreading “climate disinformation” and resisting action to address the problem. 

When it was released in December, the report offered little of what Khanna promised, and he held no press conference when the report was released. 

Khanna had told The Intercept he would release all the subpoenaed documents to the Senate so the investigation could continue. However, the documents weren’t released, nor were letters sent to the White House to ask the Biden administration to take up the investigation. 

This is likely the end of that investigation. 

“Democrats on the House Oversight Committee have chosen not to refer their investigation of energy companies to the Senate for good reason – there’s nothing there,” Allison said.  

‘Lot Of Noise’ 

The investigations into an alleged conspiracy among oil companies to deceive the public go back at least a decade.  

Rob Wallace, former staff director for the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the U.S. Department of the Interior, told Cowboy State Daily these investigations regularly come up, despite little in the way of results to show for the efforts. 

“Nothing much ever comes of it. It’s just a lot of noise,” Wallace said. 


Allison said that these campaigns are part of a lot of “mixed messages” coming out of Washington, D.C. 

On one hand, oil companies are told to increase oil and gas production to lower energy prices, and then constantly demonized for what they do produce, he said. So, investors are wary, capital is scarce and consumers continue to pay high prices for gasoline and natural gas. 

“Activists behind the climate litigation movement refuse to let their oversight dreams die, even if they are counterproductive to the top issues facing American households today,” Allison said.

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