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Drilling Down on America's Energy Future

Posted on by Karina

Today, the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Environment held a hearing with the top executives of the big five oil companies on the impact of our dependence on oil, the safety of drilling operations, disaster response measures, and the ongoing response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Testifying were:

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Rex Tillerson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, ExxonMobil

John Watson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Chevron Corporation

James Mulva, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, ConocoPhillips

Lamar McKay, President and Chairman, BP America, Inc.

Marvin Odum, President, Shell Oil Company

In his opening remarks, Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA) addressed the inadequacy of the disaster response plans by all the oil companies–noting BP (and three of the companies) included references to protecting walruses…mammals that do not live in the Gulf of Mexico:

Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) sheds light on why these response plans are so similar–it turns out the same company, the Response Group, wrote all five plans. Chairman Waxman concludes that this shows “ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Shell are no better prepared to deal with a major oil spill than BP”:

Chairman Bart Stupak (D-MI) discussed documents showing ExxonMobil devoted 40 pages of its disaster response plan to “media response strategy” and a mere 5 pages to “resource protection” and 9 pages to “oil removal.” They even have fill in the blank press releases ready to go responding to an [INCIDENT]:

Exxon sample press release

Rep. Stupak summarizes, “in short, ExxonMobil has meticulously anticipated virtually every conversation that the company might need to have with the media in the days following an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. My problem is that ExxonMobil has given far less attention to actually controlling a spill”:

Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) asks Mr. McKay, President and Chairman of BP America, about testimony he gave last year before Congress saying “today’s off-shore drilling technology bears about as much resemblance to what was available in the 1960s as a rotary dial telephone does to an iPhone” given that the spill containment measures (booms, clean-up workers) in the ’60s are nearly identical to the measures being used to respond to the disaster now:

Chairman Stupak (D-MI) asks Mr. Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, about the validity of their response plan given that ‘ExxonMobil’s worst-case scenario is over 160,000 barrels per day–four times bigger than the current spill–using the same plan BP has with the same contractors BP is using’:

Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) asks the oil executives “should taxpayers of the United States continue to provide billions of dollars in subsidies to an industry — the oil industry — that’s mature; to an industry that’s extremely profitable; and to an industry that’s based on a carbon-based fuel”:

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) asks the executives “whether or not the industry has made appropriate investments in improving safety of offshore drilling”:

Chairman Waxman (D-CA) asks the executives of ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell Oil what they would have done differently from BP to prevent the disaster that happened:

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) asks Mr. McKay about reports that BP is preventing journalists and scientific experts from accessing the areas affected in the Gulf Coast and what constitutes a “legitimate” claim:

As Chairman Waxman said at the hearing today:

Congress needs to pass new laws that put teeth into our regulatory system. But we cannot stop there. Our national energy policy is broken. We are addicted to oil, and this addiction is fouling our beaches, polluting our atmosphere, and undermining our national security.

We can't snap our fingers and transform our energy economy overnight. But we can start down the path to a clean energy future. The House did its part when it passed comprehensive energy reform a year ago. Now it's time for the Senate to act.

Learn more about the American Clean Energy and Security Act the House passed nearly a year ago to revitalize our economy by creating millions of new jobs, increase our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and preserve our planet by reducing the pollution that causes global warming»

Visit the Committee’s hearing page for hearing documents and prepared testimony»

Watch more videos from the hearing on our YouTube playlist of the hearing:

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