Rep. Katie Porter Uses Bags of Rice, M&Ms to Attack Big Oil

Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) on Thursday used jars of M&Ms and bags of rice to attack Big Oil, during a House Oversight Committee hearing about the climate crisis and the fossil fuel industry's role.

When it was her time to speak on Zoom, Porter began asking questions of Shell CEO Gretchen Watkins, about the company's expenditure on fossil fuels versus green energy.

Shell's CEO said that meeting energy demand while addressing climate change is "one of the defining challenges of our time." But @Shell won't put its money where its mouth is. I made this hypocrisy plain with a simple visual.

— Rep. Katie Porter (@RepKatiePorter) October 28, 2021

Porter pointed out that Shell's advertising gives the impression it is an increasingly environmentally friendly company, but its financial disclosures indicate a long-term commitment to fossil fuels.

The congresswoman then whipped out a jar of M&Ms to illustrate her point.

"Shell's 2020 annual report called for between $19 and $22 billion in near-term spending. I'm representing that with this container of M&Ms. Each M&M represents about $50 million," Porter said.

Porter then broached the subject of carbon-related projects that Shell continues to finance, and poured most of the M&Ms out of the jar. Then she held up the nearly empty jar to demonstrate Shell's spending on renewable energy.

"To me, this does not look like an adequate response to one of the defining challenges of our time."

Porter appeared to be speaking from her garage. She then asked Mike Sommers, chief executive of the American Petroleum Institute, about the industry's push to secure more public land for fossil fuel production.

"Mr. Sommers, there are 7,700 permits unused. How many acres of public land are already leased by fossil fuel companies are not even used yet? Just available whenever you decide," Porter asked Sommers.

Sommers instead started speaking about Porter's "misunderstanding" before she interrupted him. "Reclaiming my time. The answer is 13.9 million acres," she said. "To visualize how much land that is, if each grain of rice was one acre, that would be 479 pounds of rice." As she made those comments, Porter opened the trunk of the car to reveal a 479 pound-pile of rice bags.

Fossil Fuel companies are sitting on 13.9 million acres of our federal land they aren't even using—and they want even more.

If each acre were a grain of rice, that would be 479 pounds. I demonstrated at a hearing with Big Oil ⬇️

— Rep. Katie Porter (@RepKatiePorter) October 28, 2021

Porter then challenged the oil executives on whether they supported a pause of new oil and gas leases on federal land. After all of them said no, Porter said: "You already have 13.9 million acres! This is equivalent to Maryland and New Jersey combined, how much more do you need?

"How much more acreage? You have two of our 50 states at a price that makes the Louisiana purchase look like a rip-off and you're not even using it. What more do you need? Iowa? Colorado? Virginia? Our public land belongs to the American people, not to big oil."

Katie Porter in D.C.
U.S. Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) speaks as other House Democrats listen during an event at the Rayburn Room of the U.S. Capitol December 19, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Porter on Thursday used jars of M&Ms and bags of rice to attack the oil industry, during a House Oversight Committee hearing about the climate crisis. Alex Wong/Getty