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tv   Frontline  PBS  May 4, 2022 4:00am-5:01am PDT

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♪ ♪ >> for more than 150 years, oil and gas has played a critical role in our society, improving human lives, raising standards of living and enabling unprecedented economic growth. >> what do you do when your industry can no longer exist without creating catastrophes worldwide. >> the impacts of climate change are intensifying... >> it's important to understand the past. you can't understand where you are, if you don't know how you got there. >> narrator: in a special three-part series, the epic story of our failure to tackle climate change. >> the whole world is heating up... >> narrator: and the role of the
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fossil fuel industry... >> did big oil knowingly spread disinformation? >> narrator: now, in the third and final part - big oil pivots to a new energy source. >> renewables weren't quite there yet. natural gas could provide continuous 24-hour generation. >> doing something for the first time, taking advantage of this new resource. you don't always know what you don't know. and overtime, what we learned is very, very scary. >> narrator: and the challenges that have delayed climate action... >> we have a supply of natural gas that can last america nearly 100 years. >> the united states is now the number one producer of oil and natural gas. >> a global energy crisis exacerbated by russia's war... >> to release 60 million barrels of oil from reserves around the world. >> we all want a clean climate but what we want more than that, is to be able to fill up our cars below $4 a gallon. we're still very much in the fossil fuel age. we have continued to maintain a position that has evolved with science and is today consistent with the science. we won't solve the climate crisis unless we solve the
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misinformation crisis. >> frontline is made possible by contributions from pbs viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. additional support is provided by the abrams foundation, committed to excellence in journalism... the john d. and catherine t macarthur foundation, committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. park foundation dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues... the heising-simons foundation unlocking knowledge, opportunity, and possibilities. and by the frontline journalism fund, with major support from jon and jo ann hagler. and additonal support from koo and patrica yuen. support for “the power of big oil” is provided by the wnet group's peril and promise initiative reporting on the human stories of climate change, with major funding by: and additional funding by: additional support for this program is by the jpb
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foundation and the gbh planet future fund. >> hey, guys. nice night, huh? >> there's this great irony of the obama administration. (car door closes) he comes in promising to be the climate president; he's going to address these issues. ♪ ♪ and at the same time, we're in the middle of a recession. and one of the few rays of job growth is in oil and gas. (audience applauding, cheering) >> nowhere is the promise of innovation greer than in american-made energy. >> the country down on its heels, and here comes the oil industry, generating lots of oil, generating tax revenue. it was a great story for the oil
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industry to sell. >> over the last three years, we've opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration. >> the potential for natural gas was huge. >> we have a supply of natural gas that can last america nearly 100 years. >> when obama said we had 100 years of natural gas, we panicked, because we knew the climate was changing so fast. (audience applauding) >> we didn't take the alternative path of drastically increasing investment in renewables. >> thank you, god bless you, and god bless the united states of amica. >> it should have happened in the obama years. and we've exacerbated the climate change probl for ten years when we could have been diminishing it. >> the bible says no man can serve two masters. well, we kind of had two masters at that point. we were trying to a climate
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leader, but we were trying to be an energy superpower. it's impossible, really, to be both. >> there are massive fracking booms happening in texas, north dakota, pennsylvania, ohio, i mean, st look at that, it's much of the middle of this country. >> it's led to unprecedented expansion in towns from cotulla to beeville... >> the oil fies fueling a red-hot energy boom in the u.s. narrator: during the early years of the obama administration, despite widespread concern about climate change, the fossil fuel industry was experiencing an historic boom, with tens of thousands of new wells across the united states. it was driven in large part by a new technology for extracting oil and natural gas. it would be a turning point for the fossil fuel industry and the fight against climate change.
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tony ingraffea had helped make it happen. >> i certainly didn't grow up questioning fossil fuels. it was just 1950s u.s.a. everything was automatic and wonderful. we didn't realize it at the time, but fossil fuels were driving what we call western civilization, and still today, i value what fossil fuels have done f the world. >> narrator: in the early 1980s, ingraffea was part of a team of u.s. government engineers tasked to solve a problem. >> u.s. oil and natural gas production had just fallen off, right off the end of the table, since the oil embargo. >> all out! said all out of gas. >> what is this, i'm in a line two hours here and i can't get gas? this is baloney. >> narrator: america was
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becoming increasingly dependent on imported oil and gas from unreliable sources after its own reserves declined. >> no gas. >> narrator: there was a quest to unlock new domestic fossil fuels. >> nobody... >> no gas, forget about it. >> ...had thought about spending a lot of money trying to get oil and gas out of shale. nobody knew how to do it. and most people in the industry, the vast majority of the people in the industry, said it couldn't be done. >> narrator: ingraffea's team began devising new ways to extract large deposits of oil and gas trapped in shale rock formations across america. they called it fluid-driven fracture, now known as fracking. >> even in this small piece of marcellus shale, there is stored methane, which becomes natural gas when it's produced. and if one were to estimate the total amount of methane,
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thousands of square miles under all these states, it's many, many trillions of cubic feet of natural gas. energy. how do you get energy out of the earth? it all comes by cracking rock. oil embargo, energy crisis, crack rock-- help. ♪ ♪ >> narrator: it would take decades before fracking technology was perfected. thprocess was complicated and expensive, and the urgency eventually abated. that changed when hurricane katrina hit in 2005. ♪ ♪ >> the latest information from the national hurricane center puts katrina on a path headed for new orleans. >> winds there up to 145 miles per hour with gusts up to 170. >> narrator: the storm was pt of an emerging trend of extreme weather events. it devastated the gulf coast and
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damaged oil and gas production. natural gas prices surged, making it more attractive to use new drilling and fracking technologies to get oil and gas from shale formations. >> you have this amazing irony of this huge hurricane, this climate event, causing natural gas prices to go up. >> do you have a figure or an estimate of how high we might see natural gas prices go? >> we've seen prices double over the last couple of years, and then with hurricane katrina, prices have doubled yet again. >> all of a sudden, these companies arsaying, "wow, you know, we're getting huge profits." the climate crisis was creating a huge market boom, which was being solved by people going out drilling more natural gas, which was feeding into the climate crisis. it was a, a self-contained cycle.
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>> narrator: wall street took note. over the next several years, investors would begin pumping billions of dollars into companies with fracking operations. russell gold covered the boom for "the wall street journal" and worked with us on this film. >> most people in the oil and gas industry, most reporters like myself that were covering it, thought that oil and gas in the united states was over. we had found all the good reserves, we had drilled all the big wells, but shale changed all that. it was unexpected, it was dramatic, and it was lubricated by billions and billions of dollars coming out of wall street. >> thanks to record-breaking u.s. production, natural gas will continue to be a bargain. at chesapeake energy, we explore for american natural gas... >> narrator: no one would be more responsible for driving the fracking boom than aubrey
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mcclendon, c.e.o. of chesapeake energy. >> aubrey mcclendon was a great visionary. he was a bigger-than-life individual. >> if there is one message i'd like to effectively communicate today, it's that america is at the beginning of a great natural gas boom, and this boom... >> he believed that natural gas was the fuel of the future, and that's-- he called it that all the time. >> the technological breakthrough that we have developed in finding gas from shales changes everything about what you think about natural gas scarcity in america. >> narrator: with the growing awareness about fossil fuels' effect on the climate, mcclendon believed that natural gas-- which releases less co2 than oil or coal when burned-- could be marketed as part of the solution. >> he said, "well, what do you think?" you know, he said, "do we need an association or an organization just focused on the
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gas opportunities out there?" so, we started the clean skies foundation. it was just doing everything we possibly could to get out the message. >> what if america had its own clean energy, abundant and available for the next century or more, and possibly indefinitely? >> the fossil fuel industry tries to make this argument that we can be part of the solution. >> ...a world of good. >> we can be a force for good on climate, that we'll go out and we'll drill the natural gas, which is going to help us lower our emissions. >> doing a world of good for our economy, energy security, and our irreplaceable... >> (whispers): planet earth. >> narrator: at the time, most of the country's power was gerated by coal. mcclendon saw an opportunity to position natural gas as a clean alternative. >> he starts courting probably
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the most prominent environmentalist in the country, carl pope at the sierra club. >> we were working with chesapeake to kill coal, and they were providing us with financial support. >> i think it was quite clear that chesapeake's objective was to build markets for natural gas at the expense of coal. the concept that we were trying to convey was to say, "eventually, we have to be off all fossil fuels, but we have to get off coal first, oil second, and gas third." so, we have the opportunity to replace a very dirty fossil fuel, coal, with a much cleaner fossil fuel, natural gas, for the next 20 or 30 years, and that's going to make it even cheaper to decarbonize our economy. >> narrator: with the sierra club behind him, mcclendon had laid out a powerful marketing strategy for natural gas, a strategy that would be embraced by exxonmobil. >> x certainly marks the spot. exxonmobil announcing it is
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buying xto energy, and it's a $41 billion deal, including some debt. >> exxonmobil is making a bet here on natural gas. >> narrator: in 2010, exxonmobil purchased fracking company xto for $41 billion. overnight, it had become america's largest natural gas producer. but inside the company, some engineers were concerned about the sudden move into fracking. >> exxonmobil felt that they had to get into the shale gas game in order for wall street to see them as a growth prospect. >> narrator: dar lon chang had joined exxonmobil after getting his phd in mechanical engineering. he worked on conventional natural gas projects abroad before becoming part of the company's fracking push in the u.s. >> my peers, when they were recruiting me, they told me that exxonmobil was going to be part
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of the energy transition over my career. they talked about the excitement of having gas be a bridge fuel to theuture of energy. >> i think one of the biggest challenges that the world is facing today is to develop all the energy we need in an environmentally friendly way. >> the fact that natural gas was much cleaner-burning than coal, that it produced half the carbon dioxide emissions of coal, those were very appealing to me. >> narrator: but chang knew that the methane in natural gas had the potential to do significant damage if allowed to leak into the atmosphere. >> natural gas is primarily methane, and methane, when it's leaked out into the atmosphere, can have orders of magnitude more global warming impact than carbon dioxide. >> narrator: chang worried that the thousands of new, lightly regulated fracking operations in the u.s. could be leaking massive amounts of methane and turbo-charge the climate crisis.
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>> shale gas was like the wild west. there was already a perception that these smaller operators were not acting responsibly with the shale gas wells. ♪ ♪ i already felt that having many methane gas wells was a ticking time bomb for methane gas leaks. the more engineering infrastructure, the more wells and the more pipes, the more potential there is for leakage. when they were marketing natural gas as clean energy, they didn't really know what they were talking about, because they were fixated on the idea that natural gas, when burned, produces half the carbon dioxide emissions of coal. but without measurement devices to verify that you're not significantly leaking, you can't be sure that your natural gas is actually giving you less of a global warming impact than coal.
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the industry was not monitoring methane leakage, so they did not have data about how much was leaking. and there wasn't much appetite for management to measure methane leakage, because if they found out there was a problem, they would havto do something about it. ♪ ♪ >> narrator: at the time, exxonmobil and others in the industry said, "they were working to reduce methane emissions which were already within limits set by the e.p.a. but on the ground, some in the environmental community were witnessing widespread leaks. >> i am hunting for methane that is escaping from oil and gas facilities because that's what i do. i am a methane hunter. >> narrator: sharon wilson worked at an environmental
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watchdog group in texas documenting methane emissions. >> all of these pieces of equipment have got leaks. there's a lot of methane going off the flare. (machinery running) this is just aeally, really dirty site. ♪ ♪ this is an optical gas-imaging camera, and it makes the invisible methane and volatile organic compounds from oil and gas facilities, it makes those visible. these emissions, what's coming out of oil and gas sites, the fact that it's iisible has helped them be able to expand, and helped them maintain
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that narrative of being clean, when that is not the case. the tanks are venting... >> narrator: wilson traveled the country, gathering evidence of methane leaks at fracking sites-- including exxonmobil wells. >> we need to move about where that telephone pole is. >> nartor: she'd send her findings to regulators and the press. >> it's just disbelief that you can show someone video after video, proof after proof after proof, and they still do nothing. i sure can't compete with the oil and gas industry pr budget that they use to pump propaganda at us. that tank is emitting a lot of methane. i'm showing their dirty secrets that can't be seen without this
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optical gas-imaging camera. >> narrator: exxonmobil would not grant us any interviews. in a statement, it said it has been an industry leader in the effort to reduce methane emissions, and has been advancing technology to detect leaks. ♪ ♪ as sharon wilson was sounding the alarm, a growing number of scientists were waking up to the dangers of methane. including the man who'd helped pioneer the process of fracking. >> i became very much more concerned about climate change when i realized what shale gas and oil was going to unleash. that's the right word, unleash. (chuckling): this is trite. unleash a tsunami of oil and gas, yes. that's what it did. that's when i started feeling
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contradictory regret and pride. (chuckles) pride that we had done good engineering work to help somebody eventually figure out how to do it, regret that we had figured, we had helped somebody figure out how to do it. (chuckles) by going to shale, we're going to prolong the fossil fuel industry, and by prolonging the fossil fuel industry, we're going to exacerbate climate change. >> narrator: by now, tony ingraffea was a civil engineering professor at cornell university, and had spent years advising oil and gas companies. in 2011, he and colleagues published a critical report on the climate impact of fracking. >> what bob howarth and i locked on to was this very crucial point, which is, it's not just co2 that's driving climate change-- it's also methane.
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the paper said the climate impact of shale gas is such that it's worse than coal, worse than oil. and the reaction to the paper was disturbing. i had never been a co-author of a paper that created a political firestorm. >> narrator: the criticism came from many sides-- including the national academy of sciences and the leading industry group, america's national gas alliance. they claimed the report had overestimated the level of methane leaks, and overstated methane's impact as a greenhouse gas. >> at first, we were pilloried, then we were ignored. we had to endure a lot of personal attacks, for no good reason. i can understand people saying
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to me, "you're a traitor. you took their money for 25 years, you did their research, and now you're saying stop." yeah, okay, i am. ♪ ♪ >> narrator: criticism of the cornell report also came from another academic institution, m.i.t.'s influential energy initiative, which had just published its own report promoting natural gas as a bridge to get away from burning coal and a way to reduce co2 emissions. >> methane emissions are a very important greenhouse gas that needs to be addressed. it's just that methane emissions from the oil and gas industry are actually a minority of methane emissions. there are some very, very tough problems: agriculture, dairy farms-- enormous methane emitters.
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now, fortunately, in contrast to carbon dioxide, methane has a relatively short lifetime in the atmosphere. (chuckling): that doesn't mean one should ignore it. it means that one better eliminate new emissions. >> narrator: ernest moniz led m.i.t.'s future of natural gas study, which said the cornell work was based on "unsubstantiated" estimates. moniz would not talk about it in our interview. nor would he answer questions about the funding for the study, other than to say it was "transparent." >> the point is, we always believe in transparency, and so that's... yeah. >> narrator: the m.i.t. report's major sponsor was aubrey mcclendon's american clean skies foundation. >> we really wanted i.t. in particular, because they had been the authoritative source testifying before congress on all these other energies,
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and we thought, "we want the gold standard." and we said, "we believe this is the next big thing." >> narrator: denise bode was on the advisory committee for the m.i.t. study. >> we made our case that it was a valid emerging issue that they could add credibility to, and then, and, and then they accepted it. >> narrator: bolstered by the m.i.t. study, the industry narrative on natural gas would take hold in washington. >> i have the high privilege and the distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the united states. (audience cheers and applauds) >> narrator: it became part of president obama's 2012 state of the union address, where he unveiled his ambitious new energy policy. (audience applauding) >> this country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every
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available source of american energy. (audience applauds and cheers) >> narrator: he would push for investments in renewable energy, but he also doubled down on oil and natural gas. (audience applauding) >> we have a supply of natural gas that can last america nearly 100 years. (audience applauding) and my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy. (audience applauding) >> natural gas, from an economic perspective, the costs that were passed on consumers in terms of lower energy bills was a net plus. and then, we saw that fitting squarely in the climate agenda. >> renewables weren't quite there yet. the nuclear projects were just proving to be too expensive. and natural gas could provide continuous 24-hour generation. >> thank you. god bless you and god bless the
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united states of america. (audience applauding) >> we became an oil and gas country. it affected our politics, it affected our economy, and it begins to really affect kind of how we look at the world, the united states looks at the world. >> narrator: the u.s. had become the largest producer of natural gas in the world, helping spark a decline in co2 emissions, even as studies were piling up showg a dangerous rise in methane emissions. >> doing something for the first time, taking advantage of this new resource, you don't always know what you don't know. and over time, what we learned about methane emissions as it relates to natural gas is very, very scary. >> narrator: heather zichal would go on to advise the natural gas industry, then lobby for renewables. >> i think the obama administration tried to be very conscious of everything, all
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the implications of the shale revolution. but at the time, i think early obama administration years, we didn't have access to the kinds of information that we would have liked to and needed to have had to take the proper regulatory steps to ensure as safe and climate-friendly production as possible. >> narrator: at m.i.t., ernest moniz says they've also learned a lot since their early research. >> no, i think, i think it's come much more into focus recently. we were concerned about, about leaks, but i think the, the quantitative scale of the issue has become more clear in recent years, with better measurement vices, including atmospheric measurements, which are now becoming much more commonplace.
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>> narrator: moniz would become energy secretary in barack obama's second term, where he helped advocate for the natural gas boom. but by then, natural gas had lost its support from the sierra club and carl pope, who had allowed the group to take millions of dollars from chesapeake energy. >> the natural gas industry-- excuse me, the gas industry, but you know, they've got, they've trained me to call it the natural gas industry, nothing natural about it. i didn't understand how strong they were. i thought the big player was oil-- i thought gas was kind of a junior cousin. gas turns out to have an awful lot of political strength. and americans had been more fully sold on the myth that gas was green. ♪ ♪ >> firefighters are worried that a deadly southern california wildfire could continue to spread this afternoon. >> nine major wildfires that are burning right now across the state of california. >> 2012 is shaping up to be e of the worst fire seasons on
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record. >> by the second term of the obama administration, his administration was starting to get more serious about climate. you know, it's sort of, it's climate versus energy production, he's starting to lean more on climate. (crowd cheering and applauding) >> president obama, do the right thing! >> narrator: there had been mounting public pressure to take on the industry. >> (chanting): stop the pipeline! yes, we can! >> there really was a multi-prong attack on the oil and gas industry, but specifically at this fundamental nature of the oil and gas industry. you've been around for a long time, but your products are problematic, and you've known that they've been problematic. you don't deserve to continue operating in the long term. >> narrator: obama would begin a major climate push that would lead to the histic paris agreement in 2015.
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>> in paris this morning, a potential landmark deal is being revealed on clime change. >> the first global agreement to limit... >> narrator: under the binding international treaty, countries pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions. >> the paris agreement is adopted. >> i've come here personally, as the leader of the world's largest economy and the second-largest emitter, to say that the united states of america not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it. >> narrator: back at home, the obama administration was already taking steps to meet the treaty's obligations, proposing new climate regulations, including limits on methane gas emissions. heas pursuing a major plan to move away from fossil fuels like coal and promote renewables like wind and solar. it was called the clean power plan.
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>> president obama's clean power plan, the idea was that, you know, by 2030, we could reduce the carbon emissions by 32% compared to 2005 levels. that was an ambitious, ambitious effort. >> narrator: exxonmobil and others in the fossil fuel industry had publicly come out in support of the paris agreement. but almost immediately, obama's new climate agenda came under attack from republicans around the country. >> he declared a war on fossil fuels. it's all about an anti-fossil fuel strategy to shut down coal generation and fossil fuel generation and the generation of electricity, and you should be verncerned about that, because what is it going to be replaced with? if it's renewables, wind, the cost of that is going to be insurmountable for this country. and i'm so thankful that we have attorneys general across this country who have been on the front line, holding the
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president accountable as he's acted in that fashion. >> it may be the most critical time in our nation's history to have a group of conservative, rule-of-law, republican attorneys general in office. >> these issues matter. >> nartor: oklahoma attorney general scott pruitt rallied a coalition of like-minded republican >> whether it's involving fighng the e.p.a., fighting the national labor relations board... >> narrator: the coalition was backed by coal, oil, and natural gas companies and thei allies, including exxonmobil and koch industries. >> we are pro-business... >> the oil and gas industry, they shifted into counterattack. they were not gonna let someone else run the narrative. so, they fought back, you know, with tooth and nail. >> every republican attorney general matters. >> narrator: the aorneys general sued the administration, claiming the federal government was overstepping its authority and infringing on states' rights. >> in my state, i've filed 30 different lawsuits against e.p.a. almost every one of those has
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been in concert, in collaboration, with the other attorneys general. >> narrator: they argued that methane emissions from oil and gas had actually been going down in the u.s., even though numerous studies showed them rising. >> natural gas is a key opportunity to further improve environment. methane emissions are down in the united states, yet they are pursuing a methane regulatory regime. why do we need to go out and regulate it even more than it already is? >> the industry came out fighting those methane regulations like crazy. they said that they didn't need rules. they could do this voluntarily. i'm gonna just set up here. they were marketing natural gas as part of the climate solution. all the while, i was collecting more and more evidence out on the ground, out in the middle of it, of these horrible, horrible
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emissions. i went to d.c. more than once, and testified for the obama rules. the industry was saying one thing, and i was presenting this evidence that showed that what they were saying was not true. it was never true. >> narrator: the industry was also going after another key part of obama's agenda: the push to support renewable energy sources. >> we were going gangbusters trying to put as many products in the ground as possible. i mean, it seemed like the greatest time to be in renewables. >> narrator: patrick woodson had been building wind farms across the u.s. for years with bipartisan support. >> both parties were talking about how great wind was and how great renewables were. then you started to see the political camps shift.
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and all of a sudden, democrats became for renewable expansion. and many republicans became against. >> narrator: obama's clean power plan was giving wind and solar a financial boost against less expensive fossil fuels like natural gas. it would cause a long-lasting backlash. >> the false promise of renewable energy in texas is taking billions of dollars from consumers and taxpayers. more than $13 billion of your money is being diverted to government-subsidized wind farms... >> there started to emerge national opposition to, to projects. >> ...negatively impacting property values and the environment, while at the same time... >> groups were banding together that were funded, in large part, by certain members of the oil and gas community. all of a sudden, you realized there was a playbook now. they generally would start with the idea that the turbines were too noisy. that they were eyesores.
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eventually, if they couldn't get traction with those arguments, they would move on to the, they're dangerous. they cause disease. there's not a study behind them. mostly they were efforts to kind of derail local permitting. ultimately, they would also try and put roadblocks in to how you built them-- you know, create distance barriers, or noise barriers, or, or other things to make it harder to put projects together. >> when you start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests, or conservative think tanks, or the koch brothers pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards, or prevent new clean-energy businesses from succeeding, that's a problem. >> narrator: charles koch has said he was not trying to prevent clean energy from succeeding, and he was "all
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for" any kind of energy business that could succeed in the marketplace. exxonmobil did not respond to questions about its support for the republican that opposed the clean power plan, but said it backs a variety of organizations that "promote sound public policy." obama's clean power plan would get stalled in the legal fight with the attorneys general, and his presidency would end with his climate agenda in peril. >> the 45th president of the united states of america, donald j. trump. (crowd cheers and applauds) >> narrator: theext president would finish it off. >> we will determine the course of america, and the world, for many, many years to come. >> mr. trump, who once called global warming a hoax, signed a sweeping executive order this
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week, calling for regulators to rewrite president obama's climate change policies. >> narrator: two months after he became president, donald trump joined scott pruitt, his pick to head the e.p.a., to kill president obama's clean power plan. >> okay. >> hear, hear. >> trump immediately scrapped that plan, so that dampened any growth that would have come from that effort. we had to sort of go on the defensive again. trump's vocal opposition to renewables and lack of faith in science and technology were big concerns for a number of us. >> there's been a change of direction. the president has sent a very clear message that the last eight years, where we had to choose between jobs and the environment, those days are over-- the war on coal ended, the war on fossil fuels ended. >> all right. (all talking at once) >> when you look at the trump administration, who they brought in, the secretary of state, rex
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tillerson, former c.e.o. of exxon. heading up department of energy, rick perry, a former governor of texas. there were a lot of friends of the oil and gas industry that went to washington, d.c., with the trump administration. >> and how about these democrats, they want to get rid of oil. (audience booing) th want to get rid of natural gas. they want to go to wind. oh, darling, i just can't watch the show tonight, the wind had just stopped blowing. (audience laughing) (train horn blows) >> narrator: trump attempted to roll back the obama climate agenda. his administration delayed or repealed more than two dozen environmental rules and regulations, including those on methane emissions. >> a reversal of tougher obama-era standards for rules on greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy. >> a plan that would dramatically weaken pollution limits on coal-fired power
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plants. >> new rules making it easier for oil and gas companies to release methane. >> narrator: pressure on the industry eased off even more when president trump pulled out of the paris agreement. >> we withdrew from the one- sided, horrible, horrible, economically unfair, close your businesses down within three years... don't frack, don't drill. we don't want any energy. the horrible paris climate accord that killed american jobs and shielded foreign polluters. >> to pull out raises a question of, where does the whole effort to reduce emissions go? >> that sent a clear message, globally, that the united states was not going to play a role as a leader on climate. i mean, those were very go years for the oil and gas industry in the united states.
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>> the united states is now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. (audience cheers and applauds) ♪ ♪ >> narrator: the industry's success would continue into a new presidential administration... >> we've won with the most votes ever cast on a presidential ticket and... >> narrator: ...despite growing pressure to move away fr fossil fuels. >> plans have been unveiled to rewire the global financial sector. 450 firms and financial institutions which control $130 trillion have pledged to stop investing in fossil fuels. >> narrator: and despite demands for accountability. >> fossil fuel companies that deceived investors and consumers about the dangers of climate change should be, must be held accountable. >> narrator: across the country, attorneys general, this time
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democrats, have been filing lawsuits against exxonmobil and other companies. >> the minnesota attorney general is suing big oil companies, claiming they lied to minnesota consumers about climate change. >> narrator: exxonmobil has fought back, claiming the litigation is "politically motivated" and "without merit." but the pressure is continuing in the courts and now in congress. >> a hearing on capitol hill today, the c.e.os. of the world's biggest oil companies, shell, exxon, chevron, and bp... >> a landmark hearing that puts a spotlight on the role fossil fuels have played in accelerating climate change. >> apparent knowledge of it, disinformation, misinformation. (gavel bangs) >> the committee will come to order. this is a historic hearing. for far too long, big oil has escaped accountability for its central role... >> narrator: in october 2021, top oil executives were
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questioned under oath about the industry's long history of casting doubt on fossil-fuel- driven climate change. >> we won't solve the climat crisis unless we solve the misinformation crisis. >> i now recognize mr.hanna, who is the chairman of the subcommittee on the environment. >> thank you, madam chair. first, l me thank... we initiated the investigation to find out what the misinformaon was, what these companies knew, when they knew it. and it marks the beginning of scruny on them. they've been able to avoid it, duck it, not have to deal with it, and now they're realizing theye not gonna get away with this. what do you have to say to america's children born into a burning world? find it in yourself today to tell the truth. it will be better for your companies' futures, and will be better for humanity's future.
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>> my name is darren woods. i'm the chairman and chief executive officer of exxonmobil corporation. exxonmobil provides an essential component of modern society: affordable, reliable, and abundant energy. exxonmobil has long recognized that climate change is real and poses serious risks, but there are no easy answers. exxonmobil is committed to being part of the solution. >> it was nice kind of political theater. democrats calling the big oil and gas companies before them, questioned them about their history with climate, what they're doing right now. >> i don't even want to argue that, mr., mr. woods, i don't even want to argue that. can you just acknowledge that it was a mistake? >> i don't think it's fair to judge... >> i'm sure darren woods, the c.e.o. of exxon, doesn't like to be called before congress and yelled at and berated, but i also don't think he's losing sleep over it. if he is losing sleep, he's probably losing sleep over
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whether his investors really want to stick with exxon over the long term and whether they have a plan to make money in a world where, you know, maybe oil and gas is, is a declining source of energy. >> we launched a low-carbon solutions business to commercialize carbon capture and other technologies. >> narrator: in his testimony, woods touted exxonmobil's investment in technology to reduce co2 emissions. >> carbon capture and storage can remove more than 90% of co2 emissions from these carbon- intensive... >> narrator: exxonmobil has announced plans to spend billions on technology that captures co2 and stores it in the ground. >> narrator: just as the industry did with natural gas years before, they're promoting it as a climate solution. >> it's not at all surprising that fossil fuel companies would promote ideas and polies that enable the continued use of fossil fuels, so that they can sell these fossil fuels.
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flows over... >> narrator: charles harvey is an expert on carbon storage, and was a scientific adviser to a carbon storage company. he calls the industry's current carbon capture push a "false solution" because it is diverting needed investment away from renewable energy sources. >> there's sort of a happy story here, that carbon capture and sequestration is a way to reduce emissions and keep our existing fossil fuel companies going. but it's not actually the direction to go. it's sort of the easy direction to propose to go, but it's not the direction to go to actually stop climate change or, or prevent, prevent global warmg. ♪ ♪ >> a dire warning and a stark reality. >> there's really one key
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message that emerges: we are out of time. >> drive, bro! >> atmospheric methane is skyrocketing. >> (speaking mandarin) >> the international energy agency says the world needs to stop drilling for oil and gas to save the planet. >> narrator: the warnings about climate change are at their most intense ever. but the industry is now raising its own intense warnings, about the perils of moving away from fossil fuels. >> everybody's saying that we need to be conscious about climate-- yeah, i agree. but there's consequences to actions. >> narrator: charif souki is one of the titans of the natural gas export business in the u.s. >> i think we're dealing with a world where we've decided to make the hydrocarbon industry the enemy, because we've
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convinced ourself that we must decarbonize. >> narrator: his company, along with exxonmobil and others, are embarking on massive natural gas expansion projects. nobody has been confronted with what the cost of this energy transition is. you still need to increase energy by 50% in order to satisfy the aspiration of 90% of the world. 85% of the world's energy is hydrocarbons. the is no realistic way by which you can say we're gonna eliminate hydrocarbons out of the energy mix. renewables is about five percent. so before it becomes a significant piece of the energy mix, it's going to take decades. it's not going to happen overnight. (explosion roars)
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>> narrator: and unpredictable world events, li the war in ukraine, make it even harder. >> as a global energy crisis emerges, exacerbated by russia's war in ukraine... >> oil prices have been significantly impacted by the war in the last few weeks. >> the economic toll on americans only getting worse. >> president biden is acutely aware of this, he has said he will do everything he can. >> narrator: in his 2022 state of the union address, president biden outlined his response to the new energy crisis. >> tonight, i can announce the united states has worked with 30 other countries to release 60 million barrels of oil from reserves around the world. america will lead that effort, releasing 30 million barrels of our own strategic petroleum reserve. and we stand ready to do more if necessary, united with our allies. ♪ ♪
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>> narrator: at the same time, the president is pursuing a climate agenda more aggressive than any of his predecessors, pushing the u.s. to cut greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible by 2050, a goal known as net zero. >> the irony of a climate president, and presidents who are pushing for more climate action, is that we all want a clean climate, but what we want more than that is to be able to fill up our cars below four dollars a gallon, and when prices start to, to creep up, people get unhappy. the way i think about it is that we're still very much in the fossil fuel age. you know, as much as they talk an aspirional game about net zero by 2030 or 2040, we're not there yet. and a lot can get in the way.
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as we sit here in 2022... (inhales) we still need oi >> i'm terrified that we're not going to do nearly enough fast enough. the clock is ticking. it's been ticking for some time. i'm not terribly optimistic that america is going to get its act together in a way that is going to allow us to kind of make a meaningful difference. >> i'm worried we wasted the decade. and now we're playing catch up.
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what climate change means to me is looking in the eyes of my grandchildren... and wondering what kind of hell they're going to pay. >> go to >> this is just a really, really dirty sight... >> by prolonging the fossil fuel industry we're going to exacerbate climate change. >> for more of our reporting on climate change, including 10 years of documentaries on environmental threats. >> connect with frontline on facebook, instagram and twitter, and stream anytime on the pbs video app, youtube or >> there'd been a long history of heavy-handed policing and police violence. >> narraotr: a special investigation from the "minneapolis star tribune" and frontline. from the murder of george
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floyd... >> it's just a combustible situation... >> narrator: to the trial of derek chauvin... >> it is not part of our training, and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values. >> narrator: and the struggle for accounbility... >> we should and can abolish our current minneapolis police system. >> frontline is made possible by contributions from pbs viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. additional support is provided by the abrams foundation, committed to excellence in journalism... the john d. and catherine t macarthur foundation, committed to blding a more just, verdant and peaceful world. park foundation dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues... the heising-simons foundation unlocking knowledge, opportunity, and possibilities. and by the frontline joualism fund, with major support from jon and jo ann hagler. and additonal support from koo and patrica yuen. support for “the power of big oil” is provided by the wnet group's peril and promise
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initiative reporting on the human stories of climate change, with major funding by: and additional funding by: additional support for this program is by the jpb foundation and the gbh planet future fund. captioned by media access group at wgbh access group at wgbh >> for more on this and other frontline programs visit our website at >> to order frontline's "the power of big oil" on dvd visit shop pbs orall ♪ ♪ frontline is also available on amazon prime video.
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(man singing in foreign language) (soft music) - if i wasn't a muslim, and i saw stuff on tv, i would also not be quite positive about islam and muslims. for us, america is a place where my family and i could flourish, live in peace, and ultimately keep our identity as black african muslims, and have neighbors that could be white, blue, or red, and live with them, and interact with them with respect and honor, but keep our identity, and stay loyal and truthful to god. (bright inspiring music)