A strategy memo from Big Oil to Republicans

A satirical note inspired by last week's six-hour hearing on climate disinformation.

A real, not imagined, Exxon strategy memo from 1988 titled “The Greenhouse Effect,” in which a company public affairs manager noted scientific consensus on the role fossil fuels play in global warming before writing that the company should “emphasize the uncertainty.” (Source: LA Times).

Don’t fear climate change. Fear a life without oil. That was Republicans’ core message during last week’s House Oversight Committee hearing on Big Oil climate disinformation, which saw testimony from top executives at Exxon, Chevron, BP and Shell.

Thursday’s hearing was called for an important purpose: to examine the U.S. oil industry’s role in delaying climate action for profit, with the hopes of aiding legal efforts to hold them financially accountable. Ahead of the crucial COP 26 climate talks, the hearing was also an opportunity to show the world that the U.S. is ready to have a serious conversation about fossil fuels.

But Republicans on the committee didn’t get that memo. In fact, it felt like they maybe got a different memo from the Big Oil executives sitting on the dais. I don’t know if Big Oil actually sent a memo to Republicans, but I do know a lot about the industry’s public affairs communication tactics. I can easily imagine a document that could have resulted in what happened for Thursday’s hearing.

That product of my imagination is down below—after the week’s best and worst climate news.

—THE SUBPOENAS HAVE BEEN SENT. At the end of Thursday’s hearing, Rep. Carolyn Maloney announced she’d be issuing subpoenas to oil companies for documents detailing their role in spreading climate misinformation. Those were sent out on Tuesday. (Washington Post, HEATED).

—CABLE NEWS DID A GOOD JOB ON THE HEARING. CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News devoted a combined 41 minutes to the Big Oil disinformation hearing over 15 different segments, a new Media Matter analysis finds. After two+ years of yelling about this at the newsletter, this feels like a win. (Media Matters, HEATED, HEATED).

—NEW YORK TOOK A HUGE STEP AWAY FROM FOSSIL FUELS. Signaling “a newly aggressive approach to ending fossil-fuel emissions” and the end of a multi-year campaign by climate activists, state regulators have chosen to close two massive, aging gas-fueled power plants rather than upgrade them. (New York Times, Twitter thread).

—COP26 COUNTRIES REACHED A DEAL ON DEFORESTATION. “More than 100 world leaders representing over 85 percent of the planet's forests committed on Tuesday to ending and reversing deforestation and land degradation by 2030,” CNN reports. There’s reason to be skeptical of Brazil’s pledges in particular, but this is overall good news. (CNN, Human Rights Watch, Reuters).

BIDEN BUDGET DEAL INCLUDES BIGGEST CLIMATE INVESTMENT IN HISTORY. “The tax-and-spending bill the White House hopes to pass within a matter of days would provide unprecedented levels of funding to combat climate change. But it would force the oil and gas industry to share the cost by raising more than $100 billion from fossil fuel firms over the next decade.” (Washington Post, Washington Post).

—FOSSIL FUELS NOT GETTING ENOUGH ATTENTION AT COP 26. “Flagship pledges at the COP26 climate summit designed to rewire the global financial system for net zero are ‘resolutely ignoring’ the elephant in the room that is fossil fuels, campaigners and climate activists have warned.” (CNBC).

—BIG OIL IS DOING AMAZING. ITS WORKERS AREN’T. Chevron and Exxon made $6.8 billion and $6.1 billion in profits last quarter, their best performance in years. But that money won’t go toward re-hiring the 60,000 laid-off oil exploration and production workers in Texas, the Houston Chronicle reports. It’ll go to shareholders, their biggest priorities. Remember: “We were looking out for our investments. We were looking out for our shareholders.” (Houston Chronicle, HEATED).

And I don’t really feel like delivering any more bad news. So without further ado, I now present…

An Imaginary Memo From Big Oil To Republicans, Inspired By Last Week’s Hearing On Climate Change Disinformation

Dearest campaign donation beneficiaries,

As you all know, on Thursday we’ve been called by your Democratic colleagues to testify about our industry’s alleged campaign to deceive the public about climate change. (A reminder, per our last memo, to always use the world “alleged,” and to accuse all journalists of being biased if they don’t).

This hearing has the potential to do damage to our industry. Right now, we’re facing a buttload of lawsuits. If we slip up under oath, we’re totally screwed. In addition, the more people know about what we did, the more they actually want to replace us with renewables. And do you really want to be funded by the wind industry? Gross.

Fortunately, we are pros at skirting responsibility. We know we can come out of this mess alive. With your help, we can turn obstacle into opportunity—and use this hearing to build support for fossil fuels. We simply need the public to fear losing our industry more than they fear widespread ecosystem collapse. We must foster more gratitude for oil than for air.

You might be thinking: “Is that a good idea? Should we really be pushing fossil fuels on the brink of climate chaos?” Lol, I’m kidding. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: “Yes Papa Oil, what I do next?” Here’s what you can do to help us out:

TACTIC #1: Turn the subject from climate at every turn.

Do not talk about climate change or climate disinformation. Talk about literally anything else—immigration maybe? Examples:

  • “This hearing is simply a distraction from the crises that the Biden Administration’s policies have caused for the American people …. The Biden Administration continues to allow illegal immigrants to pour over the southern border.” (Rep. James Comer).

  • “I want to thank Chairwoman Maloney for giving this committee yet another opportunity to highlight the horrible, miserable, failed policies of the Biden administration and Democratic party as a whole, and for also allowing this time yet again to exhibit the dereliction of duty of this committee to perform real oversight on pressing issues, like the southern border.” (Rep. Jody Hice).

TACTIC #2: Insist climate activists are crying over nothing.

Say that you care a lot about climate change, but that the oil industry is already doing a really good job tackling it. This will make people feel safe and taken care of, even though they are objectively not. Examples:

  • “It’s clear from the things you’ve said that meaningful steps to reduce emissions from operations have already been done.” (Rep. Virginia Foxx)

  • “Holy Cow! Just a second here. You mean to say that despite the [fact that the] population of this country has gone through the roof, and the amount of economic activity has gone through the roof, we have less pollution coming from the energy sector than forty-plus years ago??” (Rep. Glenn Grossman)

TACTIC #3: Remind America who they’re talking to.

Sometimes parents have to remind their whiny, ungrateful children that they house and feed them. We need to remind Americans that Daddy Oil does the same. Examples:

  • “I think it’s been shameful how the other side wants to demonize this oil and gas industry. I’m very proud of our oil and gas industry. They’re innovators. They drop new technologies. They provide a higher standard of living and lots of jobs and economic activity throughout our country.” (Rep. Bob Gibbs).

  • “I apologize to our witnesses that were called and asked to take part in this today … I apologize to our witnesses and want to thank them as energy company executives to make sure that America has a sound supply of energy that is available and reliable.” (Rep. Pete Sessions)

TACTIC #4: Stir up anger. Make fossil fuels the victim.

Our adversaries are primarily young people who are mad about climate change ruining their future. To combat this, we need to create an army of old people mad that Democrats might take away their jobs.

To do this, we’re suggesting you bring in a guy who lost his job working on the Keystone XL pipeline, which Biden cancelled. Ask him to explain losing his job, then have at it. Examples:

  • “What do Democrats do today? They come in and badger companies, tell them to further reduce production of oil and gas, which is only going to exacerbate the problem. I mean, it’s literally maybe the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. … So I want to thank those companies who are actually increasing production.” (Rep. Jim Jordan).

  • “You need an apology. Because what I witnessed today was rank intimidation by the chair of this committee … It is disgusting. It is absolutely disgusting.” (Rep. Byron Donalds).

TACTIC #5: Insist that the planet is important to you.

The most important you can do at this hearing is insist fossil fuels will power the world forever. At the same time, you should still say you care a lot about the climate.

You might be thinking: “How can I do that and have people still believe me?” Honestly, I don’t know. But for some reason, it still works. Examples:

  • “The climate’s very important to Republicans as well. We just want to work with the private sector to reduce our carbon footprint while at the same time reduce our dependence on foreign countries for energy and at the same time create and maintain good-paying jobs. That’s a hallmark of the Republican Party. We care about the climate.” (Rep. James Comer).

If you all follow the directions in this memo, everything will be fine—except for one, tiny exception. It’s likely the statements you make at the hearing will age poorly. The world is currently on track for nearly 3 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century—a truly disastrous, unthinkable scenario.

As that gets closer, more people will get angry. But don’t worry about that too much, ok? The average American life expectancy is 78, and your average age is 57. Most of you won’t live to see your legacy tarnished. We look forward to your continued cooperation. God Bless America, and God Bless fossil fuels.

Much love,

Daddy Oil

Catch of the Day submissions continue to overflow, and Fish is absolutely thrilled to have so many new friends.

First up is Cookie, a 9-year-old gal submitted by reader Thabata.

“Sometimes I think she gets tired of all the B.S.,” Thabata says. “She also doesn't like anyone messing up with her toys.” We relate.

Next up is Rufus, submitted by reader Gregg.

Rufus is known in his household as “the world’s worst dog” as he does lots of “bad” things, Gregg says. Those things are not nearly as bad, however, as the things we cover regularly in this newsletter.

Last, of course, is Fish, whose been spending a lot of time on the couch lately.

He’ll see you, likely from the same spot, next week.

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