October 28, 2021

Corporate executives break into a sweat when Rep. Katie Porter whips out her handy whiteboard and markers to elucidate the points she makes before tearing them to shreds. Maybe it's the season, maybe because Halloween is near, Porter changed things up today, and decided to use candy as her visual aid while questioning Shell Oil exec, Gretchen Watkins.

"Shell called for between nineteen and twenty-two billion dollars in near-term spending. I'm representing that with this container of M&Ms. {holds up clear jar of M&Ms} Each M&M represents about fifty million dollars of spending. Ms. Watkins, how much has Shell said it will spend in the near term on oil, gas, and chemical operations?" Porter asked.

"I think you just said we're gonna be spending between eighteen and twenty billion dollars this year," Watkins responded, clearly wondering what was going to happen next.

"That's near-term, on total spending," Porter corrected her. "How much on oil, gas, and chemical operations?" she repeated.

"We're gonna be spending..." Watkins answered, then appeared to have some difficulty hearing.

Porter jumped in to make sure there wasn't a nanosecond of dead air time.

"Well according to your annual report, you said you're going to spend sixteen to seventeen billion for oil, gas, and chemical, with another three billion dollars for marketing," Porter told her, pouring roughly 9/10 of the M&Ms into a second identical-sized, but empty jar. "How much is Shell going to spend on renewable energy?"

Oh, dear.

Watkins answered, "This year we'll be spending between two and three billion dollars."

"Two and three billion dollars on renewables and energy solutions," Porter emphasized, before reading Watkins' own testimony back to her.

"In your testimony, you said, quote, 'Meeting the demand for reliable energy while simultaneously addressing climate change is a huge undertaking and one of the defining challenges of our time.' Shell has made these promises before," Porter told her. "Shell pledged to spend six billion between 2017 and 2020 on renewable energy. How much of that did Shell actually spend? The answer is about half," she announced, pouring half of the small number of M&Ms left into the second jar holding now most of the M&Ms.

"Ms. Watkins, does this look like a huge undertaking to you?" asked Porter.

Watkins submitted weakly, "Congresswoman, what I can tell you is that there needs to be both a demand and a supply for clean energy, which is why we're working very closely with our customers, so that that demand increases over time, and --"

Porter jumped in to end this insult to her intelligence, saying, "Ms. Watkins, to me, this does not look like an adequate response to one of the defining challenges of our time. This is greenwashing. {Holding up the jar with barely any M&Ms.} Shell is trying to fool people into thinking it's addressing the climate crisis, when what it's actually doing is to continue to put money into fossil fuel."

M&Ms may not melt in your hands because of their candy shell, but Shell executives seem to melt in the hands of Katie Porter.

UPDATE: If you thought the M&Ms were brilliant, wait until you see her take down the entire panel, including the guy from the American Petroleum Institute. Porter represents part of the area of Orange County, CA that just saw their beautiful beaches wiped out by an offshore oil spill, so her constituents are hungry for some justice. Also, her visuals are perfect.

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