Senate Budget Hearing Reveals Need to Investigate Fossil Fuel Dark Money, Address Coordinated Disinformation Campaigns

Published Jun 21, 2023

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The U.S. Senate Committee on the Budget hosted a hearing today, “Dollars and Degrees: Investigating Fossil Fuel Dark Money's Systemic Threats to Climate and the Federal Budget.”

The hearing came as half of the people living in the United States have faced an extreme weather alert since May 1—the start of what the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has deemed “Danger Season,” the time roughly from May through October in the Northern Hemisphere when climate change impacts in the U.S. are at their peak and increasingly likely to collide with one another.

Witnesses offered insights and provided historical background on the role of dark money in the fossil fuel industry, including scientific evidence on how fossil fuel companies have funded disinformation campaigns and front groups. NPR and Floodlight and another investigation by The Washington Post have revealed how dark money campaigns are aimed at safeguarding the finances of fossil fuel energy companies.

Below is a statement by Kathy Mulvey, the accountability campaign director at UCS.

“It's encouraging to see Congress take steps to investigate the role of so-called ‘dark money’ in the fossil fuel industry's relentless efforts to preserve its dangerous and unjust business model at the expense of the well-being of people across the country and around the world. The hearing provided unequivocal evidence that the influence of fossil fuel dark money is far-reaching—from insidious public relations disinformation campaigns to wielding political influence through front groups. It has become abundantly clear that those who benefit most from a fossil fuel-dependent economy will stop at nothing to obscure science, confuse the public and policy makers, and block action to limit the worst effects of climate change. As witness Dr. Naomi Oreskes pointed out, we have already lost 30 years of climate action as a result.

“It is alarming to see elected officials parrot fossil fuel industry talking points and support the manipulation of public perception as the toll of the climate crisis mounts. Further investigation of the fossil fuel industry's dark money, disinformation campaigns, and extensive influence on our political, economic, and social systems is urgently needed in order to minimize suffering, save lives, and protect our planet. By exposing the truth and holding those responsible accountable, we can chart a course toward a sustainable and equitable future for all.”