The news regarding notorious oil and gas companies donating large amounts of money to the powerful US trade organization American Petroleum Institute has caused great commotion among the public. Precisely, it occurred when Royal Dutch Shell, the multinational oil and gas company, issued a report indicating that their single largest donation was made to the API. The British-Dutch company was accused of supporting the US giant in their plan of blocking climate action.
Shell and their pact with renewable energy
Nowadays, it appears evident that there is no possibility of denying the difficulties that the oil and gas industry has been facing these past decades with the emerging of the climate change issue. However, the industry now recognizes the social implications that derive from dishonest behaviors and therefore companies find themselves pressured to claim they support renewable energy solutions that are less harmful to the environment. Hence, the Royal Dutch Shell has been devoted to investing heavily in renewable energy. They committed to installing hundreds of thousands of charging stations for electric vehicles to lessen the harm caused by fossil fuels. Contrary to Shell’s public adherence to renewable energy, API’s Chief Executive Mike Sommers has opposed Joe Biden’s measures including proposals to fund new charging stations in the US. Shell and other big companies that donated more than $10m found themselves facing contrasting statements from API affirming that the administration’s decision to turn to electric vehicles is a “rushed transition” which is part of the government action to limit Americans’ transportation choice” (The Guardian, 2021). As a result, many critics accused Shell of using API as a cover for the industry to run campaigns to take the climate emergency seriously, while the trade group works behind the scenes in Congress.
Furthermore, API is fighting numerous lawsuits led mostly by public entities that denounce the company’s attempt to move the spotlight away from the threat of fossil fuels. The Minnesota State affirmed that the trade group was at the heart of a decades-long “disinformation campaign”. Minnesota attorney general, Keith Ellison, accused the group of working alongside ExxonMobil and Koch Industries to lie about the scale of the climate crisis. Indeed the suit alleges that API had understood the dangers for man years but still “engages in a public-relations campaign that was false and effective to undermine the climate scene” (The Guardian, 2021). In 1998, after countries signed the Kyoto Protocol to help curb carbon emissions, API drew up a multimillion-dollar disinformation campaign to ensure that “climate change becomes a non-issue”. In addition, the city of Hoboken in New Jersey is also suing API, claiming that it engaged in a conspiracy by joining and funding “front groups” that ran “deceptive advertising and communications campaigns that promote climate disinformation and denialism”.
The Government’s role
On the other hand, API has always exercised absolute power in the oil industry driving relationships with the Congress. Last year, API indirectly gave $5m to the conservative Senate Leadership Fund to back Republican election candidates, many of whom question climate science, and to the campaigns of members of the energy committees in both houses of Congress. The Biden administration expressed their discomfort towards API’s attempt to block climate action claiming that “their political effort at this point is purely negative, purely against serious climate legislation. And many of them continue to fund the fraudulent climate denialists that have been their mouthpieces for a decade or more” (The Guardian, 2021).