In January I wrote about one of the more remarkable cases in the history of frivolous lawsuits. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was initiating court action against the major oil companies, claiming that they caused Hurricane Sandy, rising sea levels at Battery Park, hotter summers, colder winters and male pattern baldness. (Okay… I may have made up that last one but he’ll probably get to it sooner or later.) At the time I explained why the case was full of more holes than a swiss cheese and assumed it would simply be written off as a stunt.
That might have been the end of that, but some other liberal, coastal cities seem to have caught wind of de Blasio’s bright idea and decided that it would be a fine thing to try in their hometowns. As the Washington Times explains, this fit of insanity seems to have spread to three of the largest cities in California like an outbreak of Captain Trips.
“It’s time for Big Oil to take responsibility for the devastation they have wrought,” [de Blasio] said, “and to start paying for the damage they have done.” He blames the devastation from the 2012 Superstorm Sandy on climate change, “a tragedy that was wrought by the actions of the fossil-fuel companies.” The Sierra Club and other radical environmental groups couldn’t have said it better. These greens have long sought to shut down the oil and coal-mining companies.
San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles now threaten similar lawsuits to extort money from the reliable producers of cheap energy. These cities claim that the forest fires and mudslides that devastated Southern California were caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Coal companies are now joining the mayor’s conspiracy. Forest fires in the West? Hurricanes in the East? Heaven forfend. Surely that never happened before.
These complaints will, if anything, be even harder to prove in court than what de Blasio is attempting. As I pointed out in January, Hurricane Sandy was actually small by comparison when looking at historic norms. It only caused so much damage because people have put up so many buildings in a low lying area which, historically, does get hit with a sizable storm every few decades. Sandy also struck at just about the worst time possible. (Right at high tide during a full moon.) Read the original article linked above for all the details.
But what about California? As the Times article sarcastically notes, who could possibly imagine wildfires or mudslides in… California. That’s particularly true when you’re talking about Los Angeles, which sits in an area which would be a desert if returned to its natural state and not pumped full of water so humans can live there. The state was experiencing wildfires long before people arrived. In fact, it took us quite a while to discover that California redwoods actually rely on wildfires because they evolved to only drop their seeds after an area burned out.
But the WT editorial brings up another point which really should sink these lawsuits before they begin. If the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are the cause of all these terrible things, shouldn’t they be suing the people who actually put the gasses into the air?
New York City, Oakland, San Francisco and other plaintiffs have been burning fossil fuels for decades to provide power for their cities. Exxon only drills the oil. It’s the cities of New York, San Francisco and Oakland that burn it and send the carbon into the atmosphere. And what about the police cars, trucks, buses, ambulances and thousands of other city-owned vehicles? They use the fuels that Exxon and Chevron produce, and even the batteries in electric vehicles that must be frequently recharged use recharging stations powered mostly by fossil fuels. In the first six months of 2017 more than 70 percent of all the electricity produced in the United States came from coal and natural gas.
Yes indeed. Those companies may have drilled for the oil, refined it and put it into barrels. But you people in the cities have been burning it with abandon for as long as it’s been available and you’re still burning it today if you use electricity or heat anything with natural gas. Shouldn’t you really be taking yourselves to court?
One last point to consider. I see that Chevron is on the list of companies they would like to go after. The phrase “Come at me, bro” comes to mind. Do you know what happens when you sue Chevron? They tend to sue you back. (Look into a little thing called the Chevron Shakedown.) And they usually win. This should be interesting.
In reality, this is all political theater and posturing. Bill de Blasio still holds onto hope that if he waves his hands in the air and yells, “look at me” for long enough, the hard-left wing of the Democratic Party will take him seriously as a presidential candidate. And California has appointed themselves as the center of The Resistance, so anything they can do to stir up the waters works for them. In the end, it’s all sound and fury, signifying nothing.