2022 was a banner year for the fossil fuel industry. Fueled by the rise in energy costs due in part to the war in Ukraine, major oil and gas companies brought in massive profits. By the end of 2022, the net income of the seven largest oil corporations is projected to hit a record high of $4 trillion.
Yet Fox News used major events in 2022 to claim that the industry is suffering under a vicious “war” on energy waged by the Biden administration.
Fox defended the industry’s profits and ran cover for its role in limiting oil production, on many occasions advancing the idea that the world needs to invest more heavily in oil and gas. This latter point flies in the face of what the global climate scientific community is saying about climate change: Emissions from fossil fuels are rapidly altering the Earth’s temperature, and the only way to stop this from worsening is to rapidly reduce our dependence on these fossil fuels. And it advances the wrong takeaway from the energy crisis resulting from Russia’s aggression. Rather, moving toward clean energy is the only way to shield the U.S. from the vagaries of the global oil and gas market.
Throughout the year, Fox used the same debunked narratives to both defend and promote the fossil fuel industry
One of Fox’s main narratives in 2022 has been that the Biden administration is crippling or trying to destroy the fossil fuel industry through burdensome climate regulations. This talking point does not reflect reality. Just last year, the U.S. set a record for natural gas production. Meanwhile, U.S. crude oil production has steadily risen under Biden, and there is expected record oil production in 2023. And instead of the administration telling companies not to drill, oil producers are holding back from even more drilling primarily due to Wall Street pressure.
As part of this contrived “war on fossil fuels” narrative, Fox has been pushing the Biden administration to allow companies to drill more in the U.S. to help alleviate high domestic energy prices. But since oil prices are set on the global market, the Biden administration’s energy policies make little impact on what we pay at the pump.
With each major climate and energy-related event this year, these narratives got recycled as Fox doubled down on its longstanding defense of the fossil fuel industry.
A timeline of major 2022 events which saw Fox defend the powerful fossil fuel industry
The Russian invasion of Ukraine
Fox News was quick to blame the Biden administration’s climate policies for emboldening Putin in his decision to invade Ukraine. As the invasion roiled global energy markets, the network launched a full-throttled defense of the fossil fuel industry and attacked the administration for its supposed crippling regulations on the industry.
In March, the administration banned Russian energy imports to the U.S., and Biden critiqued the industry for not drilling enough after finding out that companies are sitting on thousands of untapped oil leases. In response, Fox defended the industry and gave a platform to its biggest boosters:
- Fox host Larry Kudlow: Oil and gas companies are “the greatest industry in this country … the greatest industry around the world.” [Fox News, America Reports, 3/8/22]
- American Petroleum Institute President Mike Sommers: “Some of the policies that are being pursued right now by this administration are putting us on a road to more dependence — not independence.” [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 3/9/22]
- Fox Business host Charles Payne: “It’s unfortunate that the president of the United States would do this, but I’ve seen a whole lot of this kind of stuff. First of all, they get to attack the war. They don't like capitalism. The word profit is a four-letter word to them. And you know, these are companies that hire Americans. Why are you demonizing them? It's nuts. We are blessed to have the oil under our feet.” [Fox News, America Reports, 3/16/22]
- Frequent Fox guest Rick Perry: Criticizing the oil and gas industry is “unpatriotic," and the administration needs to “take the food off of the neck of the oil and gas industry.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 3/9/22]
Gas price spikes and efforts to reduce the pain at the pump dominated energy news during the spring and summer
Month after month, Fox hammered Biden’s policies as supposedly the primary reason gas prices were increasing. A number of events during this time period saw Fox trot out such claims as that the fossil fuel industry is being unfairly maligned and that increased production would help alleviate high energy prices.
In April, the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held a hearing on Big Oil’s record profits and its role in driving high gas prices. In response, Fox carried the industry’s water:
- API President Mike Sommers: “We all know that the real reason for high prices are a consequence of low production because of some of these Biden administration policies, but also some other factors that are going on throughout the world. So — but this is a typical blame game that we see all the time on Capitol Hill. It is pretty outrageous, though, that they're hauling American executives that supply 11 million American jobs up before Congress to blame them for something that they themselves can be blamed for.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 4/6/22]
- Fox correspondent Chad Pergram: “Democrats who control the House, Senate, and White House are struggling to address the price surge, so they need a scapegoat. Oil companies. Attacking big business is good politics for the Democratic base. Democrats tried to focus on profits and turned on the witnesses.” [Fox News, America Reports, 4/6/22]
- Fox anchor Sandra Smith: “That is an incredibly important picture that they are painting because they are being demonized for the billions in profits that they are making in 2021. And that is the case. We ran a brain room research here for all the witnesses, companies that were there, Shell, BP, Chevron, Exxon, and I have in front of me, Joe: BP making $7 billion in 2021 while it lost 20 billion in 2020. You got Shell making 20 billion in 2020; it lost more than that — 21 billion in 2020. This is the environment those oil companies have to navigate.” [Fox News, America Reports, 4/6/22]
In May, Biden suggested that high gas prices, which had reached a record high, are part of “an incredible transition that … when it's over, we'll be stronger and the world will be stronger and less reliant on fossil fuels.” In response, Fox came out firmly on the side of fossil fuels:
- Fox guest Wesley Hunt: “He's got his words wrong. It's not about energy transition; it's about energy addition. … The bottom line is this — it's an all-hands-on-deck approach to fulfill the energy needs of this country. … This administration is trying to kill our industry, but we are not going to allow that to happen.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends First, 5/24/22]
- Fox host Brian Kilmeade: “We could be stepping up, an opportunity, as bad as things are, to step up with natural gas. That's what the president should be doing, saying I need my natural gas community to step up and help our allies in the time of war and the time of strife and the time of stress. Instead he said this could be a good thing. We'll all be doing -- we’ll all be having clean burning vehicles, which by the way natural gas is clean burning.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/24/22]
- Fox Business correspondent Jackie DeAngelis: “This administration loves to attack Big Oil,” and the fossil fuel industry’s selfless act of producing oil it didn’t have to produce was for “the American people.” [Fox News, America Reports, 5/31/22]
In July, in an effort to stabilize global oil supplies, the administration conducted an entirely noncontroversial sale of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a move that actually helped temporarily alleviate gas prices. Additionally, Biden visited top oil producer Saudi Arabia in order to strengthen diplomatic ties. Fox responded with attacks:
- Fox host Sean Hannity: “While Biden suffers more blunders abroad, ask yourself, why is Biden so hostile to American oil and gas and domestic production? Why has he been so soft on American adversaries like China because he's given them our Strategic Petroleum Reserves and he's giving them a pipeline to Vladimir Putin. [Fox News, Hannity, 7/14/22]
- Fox host Katie Pavlich: “Instead of ramping up domestic energy production to combat sky high prices here, Biden left with no choice but to beg Saudi dictators for more oil.” [Fox News, The Five, 7/14/22]
- Oil executives interviewed by Fox correspondent Lauren Simonetti: The oil industry is “demonized” by Biden and American energy is produced in an “environmentally responsible way.” [Fox News, America Reports, 7/15/22]
Finally, in July, Biden made a major climate announcement in Massachusetts.
- Fox contributor Brian Brenberg: “I think most of America wishes the coal plant was still there because … more people could be in a cool environment and be safer.” [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 7/20/22]
Extreme weather and OPEC+ oil cuts pushed gas prices back into the headlines in early fall
Punishing extreme heat, fires, and drought affected vast swaths of the globe during the summer, with climate scientists saying that these events were made worse by the burning of fossil fuels, and a major hurricane hit the U.S. in September. Additionally, a major OPEC oil decision roiled gas prices again. Fox once again defended and promoted the fossil fuel industry.
In September, as Hurricane Ian hit Florida, Biden warned oil companies not to use the storm “as an excuse to raise gasoline prices or gouge the American people.”
- Fox anchor Neil Cavuto: “I want to echo again, there is no evidence, there was no evidence, there has been no evidence that gouging was going on of the oil companies, or the gas giants, were, you know, colluding to rig prices or all of a sudden take advantage of a bad situation by doing this sort of thing.” [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 9/29/22]
In October, OPEC+ cut oil production.
- Fox anchor Martha MacCallum: “There's no reason why we can't be energy independent. As you say, we have been before.” MacCallum continued, “We basically scolded a lot of our energy companies out of expanding and growing their businesses because they have been told by several administrations, not the last one, that they were going to be out of business soon. [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 10/12/22]
- Fox anchor Dagen McDowell: “[Biden] won’t open our spigots wide open and start pumping all that delicious natural resources. … Four years ago, we were a net exporter of petroleum products, first time since 1949. We were the swing producer in the world; we controlled world oil prices. … Joe Biden could do that, but he won’t because he is obviously both a masochist because he likes taking it from Saudi Arabia and also a sadist because he likes inflicting pain on the people of the United States.” [Fox News, The Five, 10/15/22]
- Rep. Pat Fallon (R-TX): “Unleash the American energy sector, and oh by the way, don’t declare absolute total war on them, which is what the administration has done over the past two years. … We do it cleaner, so if you care about the environment, you should be rooting for American energy.” [Fox News, Fox Report with Jon Scott, 10/15/22]
The COP27 climate negotiations and oil sales to Venezuela in November provided fodder for Fox to boost the fossil fuel industry
The United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP 27, yielded an agreement for a global fund in which richer nations, which are vastly responsible for climate change, would contribute money to poorer nations to help the latter rebuild from climate-fueled extreme weather disasters. Fox heavily criticized the plan, instead claiming that more fossil fuel usage is the way to move forward. Additionally, the Biden administration allowed Chevron to resume drilling operations in Venezuela.
- Fox contributor Sean Duffy attacked the fund for its lack of focus on fossil fuel usage: “This money isn’t free, right? So, when they offer money from this development fund to these poorer nations there’s going to be strings attached, which means you can’t develop carbon-based energy, and carbon-based energy is the cheapest energy. And If you want your economy to grow, if you want to manufacture and transportation, you need carbon.” [Fox News, The Big Sunday Show, 11/20/22]
- Fox contributor Marc Thiessen claimed that it’s actually climate policies, and not fossil fuels, that will destroy the world: “If anyone owes poor countries anything, it is the climate extremists. … They would drive billions of people out of the middle class and stop billions more from getting into the middle class. So this would do more damage, the climate activists would do more damage to prosperity, more damage to the GDP of these countries than any of the solutions they offer and so the war on fossil fuels is what is hurting the developing world, not anything else.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 11/21/22]
- Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) suggested Biden’s energy policy is like something his dog would do: “President Biden's energy policy looks like something Roger used to keep under my back porch. It is a fact that America has the greatest economy, strongest economy in all of human history. We can't run it without fossil fuels, not today, not tomorrow. It is also a fact that through reserves and technology, America can produce every drop of oil and natural gas that we need and have extra left over to sell to our friends.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 11/30/22]
- Fox Business host Charles Payne: “We've been indoctrinated in this over the last couple of decades to movies. You turn on a faucet and fire comes out instead of water. And you know how fracking became a four-letter word in this country for a long time, even though it created the energy independence that you described, it created an amazing number of jobs, it revitalized small or rural towns, it was seen as enemy number 1 by folks who don't care.” [Fox News, Hannity, 11/28/22]