New York is deciding to declare war on Exxon Mobil by subpoenaing to find out if they lied about climate change. The New York Times first broke news of the court action yesterday.

The investigation focuses on whether statements the company made to investors about climate risks as recently as this year were consistent with the company’s own long-running scientific research.

The people said the inquiry would include a period of at least a decade during which Exxon Mobil funded outside groups that sought to undermine climate science, even as its in-house scientists were outlining the potential consequences — and uncertainties — to company executives.

New York Attorney General Eric Scheiderman’s goal in all this appears to be the oil industry as a whole. NYT reports Scheiderman may start going after other companies because the law allows him to (emphasis mine).

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to speak publicly about investigations that could produce civil or criminal charges. The Martin Act, a New York state law, confers on the attorney general broad powers to investigate financial fraud.

To date, lawsuits trying to hold fuel companies accountable for damage they are causing to the climate have failed in the courts, but most of those have been pursued by private plaintiffs.

Attorneys general for other states could join in Mr. Schneiderman’s efforts, bringing far greater investigative and legal resources to bear on the issue.

If this sounds a lot like how governments went after tobacco companies in the 1990’s and 2000’s you’re absolutely right. It’s something the Left has been pushing pretty much all this year, from Rhode Island Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse to Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva to a group of university professors. They all want the government to start cracking the whip and force companies to change their product without looking at why oil companies are still focused on oil. It’s not just because almost every car in the world runs on gas. It’s because of how much money the companies get from the government, intentionally or unintentionally. Environmentalists like to toss around the billions in dollars oil companies get in subsidies from the federal government without defining what the subsidies are and if they benefit someone other than big oil. Robert Rapier wrote in Forbes in 2012 how some of those subsidies aren’t actually directed at the oil and gas industry.

The single largest expenditure is just over $1 billion for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is designed to protect the U.S. from oil shortages. The second largest category is just under $1 billion in tax exemptions for farm fuel. The justification for that tax exemption is that fuel taxes pay for roads, and the farm equipment that benefits from the tax exemption is technically not supposed to be using the roads. The third largest category? $570 million for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. (This program is classified as a petroleum subsidy because it artificially reduces the price of fuel, which helps oil companies sell more of it). Those three programs account for $2.5 billion a year in “oil subsidies.”

It’s the law of unintended consequences which most the leftists in government ignore because it’s never the government’s fault. They’re basically doing their best Obama imitation by passing the buck and blaming those “ebil oil companies.” But even the “kill the fossil fuel industry” group Oil Change International admits government subsidies are allowing oil companies to rake in the cash.

The value of fossil fuel exploration and production subsidies from the federal government have increased by 45 percent since President Obama took office in 2009 – from $12.7 billion to a current total of $18.5 billion – a side effect of his Administration’s “All of the Above” energy policy that promotes the U.S. oil and gas boom and amounts to nothing less than climate denial. 

Obama has moved a few times to get rid of just the “oil subsidies,” but Republicans rightly blocked it because it’s just a tax hike. In reality, the government should get rid of all subsidies (including the ones which are meant to “help”) then lower the corporate tax rate (plus cut government spending). But honestly, the current drop in the price of oil may end up doing the job the environmentalist wackos want the government to do. If oil stays low, it will force the companies to start adapting their method of energy production and look into alternative energy. Key Energy told investors earlier this week how things probably weren’t going to get better for the oil industry. That could have a trickle-down effect on the car companies which will start putting out more alternative fuel cars. If those cars end up being better than gas-run cars, then more people will buy them. If the alternative fuels start dominating the market (again without government help) then the U.S. has solved its “oil dependent culture” without the government doing anything except get out the way. The last part is the hardest because there are so many green energy folks wanting the government to swing its power like Thor’s hammer Mjölnir and crush the resistance. That’s all this subpoena by Schneiderman is. He’s trying to use governmental force to do something which the government is the blame for.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to conserve energy and try to find more “cleaner” ways of energy. But it has to be through the free market. Bill Gates told The Atlantic market forces changed the dominant energy product before. This has to continue, even if Gates and his ilk want the government to step in and give oil the ole heave-ho. But that’s not their job and people are going to have to admit it and deal with it.