19 senate Democrats call out Exxon, fossil fuel industry on climate change denial

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, attends a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee business meeting to markup an original bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to make Keystone the first bill passed in 2015. House Speaker John Boehner also plans to push a bill. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Elizabeth Warren
Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, in 2015. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

A coalition of 19 top Democrats took the senate floor Monday afternoon to call for an end to what they referred to as the fossil fuel industry’s “web of denial” on climate change, calling out companies including Irving-based Exxon Mobil.

Among those speaking were Virginia Senator Tim Kaine and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, both reported to be on the short list as Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate.

“We have to be open to different points of view, but when the science is settled and people who know better are fighting against it we should know better,” Kaine said.

For years a handful of Senate Democrats like Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse have called on companies including Exxon and Koch Industries to cease funding to think tanks and trade groups that question research showing temperatures on earth are rising.

But a resolution introduced Monday by Whitehouse and Rep. Ted Lieu, D-California, claimed  fossil fuel companies had used a “misinformation campaign to mislead the public and cast doubt in order to protect their financial interest.” The measure drew support from a wide cast of senators that also included Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and veteran New York Senator Chuck Schumer.

Kent Lassman, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank,  sharply criticized the resolution and Whitehouse’s attacks on the fossil fuel industry.

“Apparently, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is the new Senator Joe McCarthy and green is the new blacklist,” Lassman said in a statement. ” It is unhealthy for democracy and abusive when members of Congress create an enemies list based on policy positions.”

In a statement, an Exxon spokesman said, “To suggest that we had reached definitive conclusions, decades before the world’s experts and while climate science was in an early stage of development, is not credible.”

These latest attacks on Exxon come as the company seeks to separate itself from past public relations campaigns and statements questioning climate change research. Lately, the company has offered support for a carbon tax to account for the environmental cost of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

But a coalition of state attorneys general continues to investigate Exxon and other fossil fuel companies as to whether they misled the public and their investors over the threat of climate change.

“It’s inspiring to see senators join the movement to hold the likes of Exxon accountable for their decades of deception. Big oil robbed us of a generation’s worth of climate action, and to this day are still sowing doubt and misinformation,” Jamie Henn, spokesman for the environmental group 350.org, said in a statement.

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