How Big Tobacco used bad science to avoid accountability — and set the blueprint for Big Oil


Salon: In October, chief executives from four of the world’s most powerful Big Oil companies testified before Congress about climate change — a scene that was eerily reminiscent of something that happened in the spring of 1994.

Then, seven industry giants appeared before the House of Representatives — but from Big Tobacco, not Big Oil. As the business titans withered under persistent questioning from Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, Americans collectively witnessed the story as to how tobacco companies knowingly hooked their customers on an addictive and deadly product.

To cap things off, many of those who appeared lied under oath about their actions, making it possible for prosecutors to later charge them with perjury. (This is no doubt why the energy industry figures prepared very carefully prior to the 2021 hearing.)

This article first appeared in Salon.

It isn’t a coincidence that when Big Oil tries to wash its hands of climate change, their remonstrations comes across as strikingly similar to the time when Big Tobacco lied about the dangers of nicotine.

In both hearings, viewers got to see capitalism’s dark underbelly, exposed in all of its ugliness before the world: Businesses depend on profit, and therefore will lie about indisputable facts so they can continue to earn as much money as possible.

To trick the public into helping them — even when, in the process, those same members of the public are only hurting themselves — this means they will lie about science.

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