Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joked about the climate crisis and belittled teenage activist Greta Thunberg as he continued his courtship of the oil and gas industry amid rumoured 2024 presidential bid.
Mr Pompeo on Monday told the Kansas Independent Oil & Gas Association at a luncheon in Wichita that he “never started a meeting talking about climate change” – prompting laughter from the crowd.
“We all want clean air. Sign me up for drinking water, but we all know that the American economy and innovation is the thing that’s going to protect the health of people all across the world,”Mr Pompeo said in his keynote speech, as reported by the Wichita Eagle.
The Republican then referred to 18-year-old Ms Thunberg as “that Greta women,” saying he’d “spent very little time” with her “and a lot of time with people like you, to figure out how we could make sure that we were creating conditions for you all to do the remarkable work that you do.”
Mr Pompeo, a former CIA director who served in the Trump administration, has a long and close connection to the fossil fuel industry.
He was president of oilfield services firm Sentry International from 2006 to 2010. The company had partnered with Koch Industries, owned by the billionaire oil magnate Koch brothers.
Mr Pompeo was elected as a congressman for Kansas in 2010, and served from 2011 to 2017.
He received more than $1million in campaign finance funding from oil and energy industries between 2009 and 2018, according to the DC-based non-partisan tracking group Center for Responsive Politics.
The GOP congressman had a staunchly conservative voting record on the environment and was an opponent of the international Paris Agreement, intended to keep global heating within safe limits.
He received more than $1million in political funding from oil and energy industries between 2009 and 2018.
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune previously called Mr Pompeo an “extremist” while he served as secretary of state.
“Every single other world leader accepts climate science, and every single other nation wants to be a part of the Paris Agreement, yet Trump wants to give the stewardship of our international relations to an extremist,” Mr Brune said in 2018 while Mr Pompeo was being vetted to replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.
Mr Pompeo attendance at the oil industry event was the latest in a run of similar events. In May he spoke at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck, North Dakota, effectively arguing that heavy hitters from oil and gas should actively combat environmental efforts.
“These progressive clean energy processes, these proposals, are a little bit about energy and a little bit about climate and a lot about control,” he said, according to a report by the Grand Forks Herald.
Talking further of the energy industry’s importance, he added: “Be louder. Tell the story. Tell the story with pride and a smile on your face.”
Mr Pompeo, a vocal critic of President Joe Biden, doubled down on his opposition to Biden administration policies on Monday.
He also took a swipe at Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, claiming she was less qualified for the job than Dan Brouillette, who held the position during the Trump administration.
“One of actually had been in the energy industry and the other one I’m convinced needs a dictionary to spell ‘energy,’” Mr Pompeo said, according to the Wichita Eagle.
He added: “And I’m sure Jennifer Granholm is a really nice woman.”
The Independent has requested comment from Mr Pompeo’s PAC, Champion American Values.
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