Senate To Consider “Merchants Of Doubt” Amendment To Energy Bill


Senators Whitehouse, Markey and Shatz co-sponsored a “Merchants of Doubt” amendment to the energy bill that was recently passed by Congress. The amendment  expressed Congress’s disapproval of the use of industry-funded think tanks and misinformation tactics aimed at sowing doubt about climate change science. “It is the sense of the Senate that according to peer-reviewed scientific research and investigative reporting, fossil fuel companies have long known about the harmful climate effects of their products,” the amendment reads.

merchants of doubt amendment before Congress

“[C]ontrary to the scientific findings of the fossil fuel companies and of others about the danger fossil fuels pose to the climate, fossil fuel companies used a sophisticated and deceitful campaign that included funding think tanks to deny, counter, and obstruct peer-reviewed research; and used that misinformation campaign to mislead the public and cast doubt in order to protect their financial interest.”

The phrase “Merhants of Doubt” is drawn from internal memos of the tobacco companies a generation ago, in which they plotted to hide, deny, obfuscate, and cover up what they knew about the dangers of smoking. Today, it is being revived to describe the actions of ExxonMobil to hide what it knew about the role of fossil fuels in promoting climate change and the company’s subsequent, unconscionable climate science denial efforts.

Just as tobacco and lead companies sowed doubt about the dangers of their products through the use of front groups and third party experts, so did ExxonMobil. It funded a sophisticated network of denialists who have worked tirelessly to deceive the public about climate science and the need for political action to end the fossil fuel era. Its nefarious actions were exhaustively detailed by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times in collaboration with the Columbia School of Journalism in late 2015.

The amendment states the Senate “disapproves of activities by certain corporations and organizations funded by those corporations to deliberately undermine peer-reviewed scientific research about the dangers of their products and cast doubt on science in order to protect their financial interests…and urges fossil fuel companies to cooperate with active or future investigations into their climate-change related activities and what the companies knew and when they knew it.”

Predictably, the amendment did not pass, thanks to the millions of dollars ladled out by fossil fuel companies to fatten the wallets of sitting Senators. Perhaps one day the American voters will wake up to the charlatans who sell their own constituents down the river for a few pieces of silver.

Sounding like a latter day Al Gore, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has gone on record several times saying that burning fossil fuels is the “dumbest experiment in history.” So why is Congress still doling out tax breaks and other financial incentives to fossil fuel companies? Because we as voters let them. Remember, if the people will lead, their leaders will follow.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons


Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.