(The Center Square) – Citing “record breaking heat levels,” U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Democratic Sens. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland asking him to sue the fossil fuel industry. They claim the industry has “carefully coordinated” a “campaign to mislead consumers and discredit climate science in pursuit of massive profits.”
Oil and gas industry leaders from Texas, which is leading the U.S. in energy production, say the request is “not surprising,” a distraction and misguided.
“The actions of ExxonMobil, Shell, and potentially other fossil fuel companies represent a clear violation of federal racketeering laws, truth in advertising laws, consumer protection laws, and potentially other laws, and the Department must act swiftly to hold them accountable for their unlawful actions,” the senators wrote in their July 31 letter. “The fossil fuel industry has had scientific evidence about the dangers of climate change and the role that burning fossil fuels play in increasing global temperatures for more than 50 years.”
The senators cite Edward Teller, the theoretical physicist known as “the father of the hydrogen bomb,” who in 1959 warned the American Petroleum Institute that carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels would raise global temperatures. They also cite a lawsuit filed by the state of Minnesota, which claims the fossil fuel industry “spent millions on advertising and public relations … to continue to earn profits by conducting business as usual.”
Industry leaders point out that the computer, internet, and electricity used to write the letter, their cell phones, eye glasses, other technology, the methods of transportation they use to travel to and from Washington, D.C., are also made possible by the fossil fuel industry.
Ed Longanecker, president of the Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association, told The Center Square, their request “is not surprising, but it’s incredibly unfortunate as it does nothing to help the American people. In fact, these kinds of distractions do the opposite by putting further strain on companies that supply the energy that fuels our modern society and makes the protections, conveniences, and products we all value and utilize on a daily basis possible.”
Longanecker said the senators are misplacing their priorities and should be focused on real problems facing the country.
“We need to stop politicizing energy security and work together on shared priorities, including creating economic opportunity for Americans, strengthening energy security, and protecting the environment,” he said. “Through collaboration and coordination, we can expand the responsible development of domestic oil and natural gas and energy infrastructure to support demand growth here at home and abroad for our allies and trade partners.
TIPRO has also pointed to Texas-produced liquified natural gas exports providing a lifeline to European countries and to methane emissions in the Permian Basin – one of the largest oil and natural gas fields in the world – falling by 76% as production increased by 345% in the most recent decade analyzed.
Todd Staples, president of the Texas Oil & Gas Association, told The Center Square, “Oil and natural gas are indispensable components of daily life, as 96% of the products we use have a component of oil or natural gas as the basic building block. Misguided actions which disrupt the production of these essential resources as part of the energy mix are detrimental to consumers.
“Policy can promote prosperity, or it can hinder it. We need sound policy in Washington that treats oil and natural gas as an asset, not a liability. By fostering policies that lessen America’s dependence on foreign produced resources and encourage increased domestic investment and production, we can create jobs here at home, grow our economy, and keep the United States as the world’s energy leader.”
TXOGA has published reports on the economic impact of the industry, including a record $24.7 billion into Texas coffers in fiscal 2022, the highest in state history. It also broke records in every production category in 2022.
If Texas were its own country, it would be the world’s third largest producer of natural gas and fourth largest producer of oil. In the first half of 2022, the U.S. became the world’s largest liquid natural gas exporter, led by Texas, according to EIA data.