Disinformation Behind Censorship Demands
Democrats demanding censorship are themselves spreading misinformation about climate change and energy.
President Joe Biden, spokespersons for his administration, and Congressional Democrats say they are trying to get out the truth about energy and climate change against Republican and fossil fuel efforts to deny it. Over the summer, Biden denied he was “limiting oil production” and accused oil refiners of restricting production. In July, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said, “natural disasters... are getting worse because of climate change," which, he said, had caused the war in Syria. And Rep. Ro Khanna, on September 15, 2022, said, “If there was a war on energy, how is Exxon, Chevron, BP, and Shell making over 200% profits? You can't have a war on an industry and then they're having record profits.”
But every one of their statements was false. Biden has leased far less federal land and off-shore waters for oil and gas production than any president since World War II, oil refiners are operating at maximum capacity, and Biden’s EPA shut down a major oil refinery in the US Virgin Islands in May. The number of weather-related natural disasters has been declining since this century, and the claim that climate change caused the war in Syria has been soundly and repeatedly debunked. And, as I explained to Rep. Khanna during the September 15 Congressional hearing, big oil and gas companies have big profits precisely because the Biden administration and others have been stifling production, thereby reducing supplies, and increasing prices and profits.
It’s true that climate change is worsening some extreme weather events and that the Biden Administration is not the sole cause of high energy prices. The most recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report points to evidence that heat waves, temperature extremes, and heavy precipitation are increasing on a global scale. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine rightly led President Biden in March to ban Russian oil and natural gas imports into the U.S. And one of the reasons U.S. oil and gas companies are not expanding production is because they are not confident prices will remain high enough for long enough to justify new investments.
But none of those facts make accurate what Biden, Kirby, and Khanna said. Heat waves, temperature extremes, and heavy precipitation are “extreme weather events,” not “natural disasters,” which are defined as deaths and costs, both of which are declining. There is no scientific evidence that climate change caused Syria's drought, that the drought caused mass migration, or that mass migration caused the civil war. In March 2022, before the cut-off, the U.S. imported 18 million barrels of Russian oil; in 2021, the U.S. produced 19 million barrels of oil domestically per day. Meanwhile, a single lease in Alaska that the Biden administration killed would have produced over 5 million barrels per month. And while some oil and gas firms fear prices won’t remain high enough for long enough, many others want federal leases, and point to the Biden administration’s restrictions on oil and gas production as the main reason they aren’t expanding production.
And during the September 15 congressional hearing on “Big Oil’s Profits and Climate Disinformation,” in which I appeared as an expert witness, two other witnesses made false claims. “These really destructive hurricanes,” claimed witness J. Mijin Cha, Associate Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy at Occidental College, “will all intensify both in terms of their strength but also their frequency.” Said Raya Salter, Founder and Executive Director of the Energy Justice Law and Policy Center, and a member of the New York State Climate Action Council, “We need to move away from fossil fuels, and that absolutely includes gas, and that's why I am very glad that New York state is doing exactly that.”
I pointed out that these claims were false and cited the correct information. In New York, natural gas and oil, as a share of electricity, rose from 77% to 89% of its electricity supply between 2020 and 2021. The main reason was that New York shut down a perfectly fine nuclear power plant, Indian Point, which was replaced with natural gas. As for hurricanes, they are not becoming more frequent. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a 25% decrease in the overall number of Atlantic hurricanes and tropical storms. “So in terms of misinformation,” I told members of the Oversight Commitee, “we've seen some here today.”
Why is that? Why are the people who want to censor supposed disinformation themselves spreading misinformation?