big polluters peddle greenwashing and lies

  • Post last modified:March 22, 2024
  • Reading time:17 mins read

Houston, we have a problem – and it’s the fossil fuels industry. Between Monday 18 to Friday 22 March, big oil and gas gathered in Houston, Texas for CERAweek. It’s one of the industry’s largest annual conferences.

A polluter’s paradise, over 8,000 delegates from energy, finance, and the technology sectors, rubbed elbows with government officials from across the globe.

So, the Canary caught up with the greenwashing galore and climate-wrecking shenanigans that took place throughout the week.

CERAweek: awash with climate denial and delay

Off to a strong start, on Monday, big oil and gas bosses began with a predictable display of climate dither and delay. Execs were demonstrating how to recycle – using long-debunked climate denial tropes:

According to CEO of the $1.8 trillion Saudi Aramco oil and gas corporation Amin Nasser, it’s time to ditch the fossil fuel pledge countries made at COP28. You know, the already weak and watered down bare minimum commitment to phase them out, eventually – agreed barely four months ago. He told the audience:

We should abandon the fantasy of phasing out oil and gas, and instead invest in them adequately

But then, who wouldn’t listen to the head of “the world’s most valuable oil company” for advice on the energy transition?

Unfortunately, the organ grinders were. Specifically, attendees trash-talked Biden’s pause on approvals for new liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminals, and the US administration appeared ready to roll over.

As Heated reported, the LNG export pause simply applies to new terminals – that is, the US Department of Energy cannot currently rubber-stamp the construction of new facilities. It doesn’t include a freeze on exports from existing facilities.

As a result, this means that the eight existing export terminals can continue to operate. What’s more, the ten the department approved before the pause will still go ahead. Alarmingly, this could potentially double US exports of LNG by 2028.

Nonetheless, this didn’t stop industry talking heads from playing the victim:

Ah yes, the notoriously hard-to-get-approval-for projects like the Alaska LNG “carbon bomb” pipeline the Biden administration greenlit in May 2023. Or the Willow project it approved in March 2023, which campaigners estimate will produce the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent of 70 coal-fired-power plants across its 30 year lifespan.

So US energy secretary Jennifer Granholm reassured the government’s fossil fuel paymasters:

Cue rare capture of a fossil fuel exec rubbing his hands with glee:

Lobbying, PR, and industry greenwashing at CERAweek

Besides trying to weasel out of international climate commitments, fossil fuel companies discussed how to do-away with pesky environment protections-cum-red-tape. In particular, the kind that prevents them from pumping out unfettered pollution. Don’t look now, but #LobbyingGoals2024 incoming:

Err, so that would be 401 regulations of the US Clean Water Act that enable states or tribes to protect their water resources.

What’s more, what fossil fuel conference would be complete without a smorgasbord of false climate solutions? Here we have Chevron peddling the industry’s favourite pet technology project for the clean energy transition:

And there was plenty more where that came from, like this big polluter vision for “green” energy marital bliss:

CERAweek also provided the opportune moment to spin some junk PR:

Didn’t you know, we environmentalists all want to see a throw-back to the energy dark ages. How on earth could we power our electric grids without burning the decomposed remains of dead things chock-full of climate-wrecking carbon? If only there were some other sustainable, renewable resources we could use to power stuff. Oh wait…

Girl-boss feminism and cutting edge solutions

However, it wasn’t all fossil-fuel-mongering and fake climate solution gloom. The conference offered the cutting edge of technology for saving the planet. Like this AI barista coming to replace the underpaid and overworked low-wage workforce in a coffee shop near you soon.

So, if you fancied your mugshot on a latte, replete with logo for maximum brand loyalty brownie points, you could head to ExxonMobil’s zone in the “Innovation Agora” (ooh):

That’s some nifty product placement right there. Though, noted lack of keep-cup lads.

Moreover, who said a fossil fuel conference filled to the rafters with a predominantly white, male, cisheteronormative, Global North execs didn’t have something for everyone?

In fact, at CERAweek, women in energy got a whole dinner panel dedicated to them:

What a heart-warming display of corporate girl-boss feminism. Hats off to the fossil fuel industry for showing us that capitalism routinely subordinates women’s rights to the cult of individual financial success. Nothing like a slice of weaponised inclusion served with your Exxon-selfie coffee though, right?

Funny then, that CERAweek’s X account quietly glossed over the part where just 22% of their speakers, and only a third of the attendees were women last year. Unsurprisingly, it’s not exactly looking much better this year. By the Canary’s count, women comprised marginally over 23% of this year’s speakers.

Of course, the sector that sparked the term “man-camps” at worker sites, where women have reported sexual assault and human trafficking, would want you to believe they’re feminist for placing a few women on a panel.

Perhaps there’s a reason there are still so few women in energy – because, reality check – the industry is misogynistic as hell.

Sacrifice zones for profit over people

Despite everything, big oil was bleating into a (granted, extraordinarily well-connected and financed) echo-chamber. Crucially, the good folks on X and beyond weren’t buying into the industry’s bullshit.

Environmental Defense Fund’s Mark Brownstein pulled apart the industry’s weasel words on the energy transition:

Meanwhile, frontline communities from Texas and Louisiana also took their fight to the front door. Specifically, they protested outside the conference over the deadly pollution the industry produces, which is killing their communities:

So another year, another fossil fuel conference promoting the destruction of the planet. Once again, oil and gas CEOs demonstrated their commitment to sacrificing communities and nature for their killer profits.

They’ll hide behind the low-hanging fruit of climate solutions they offer, while claiming to lead the world’s green energy transition. Ultimately, tepid tinkering to rampant extractive capitalism will not save the Earth. But it will save their bottom-line.

Feature image via Fox 26 Houston/Youtube.

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