In case you didn’t get the memo, please be advised that you, me — all of us — are victims of fraud. When we fill up our cars with gas, heat our homes, turn on our smart phones or avail ourselves to our nation’s ample food supply, we’re all a bunch of dupes, suckers, rubes. At least that’s the claim made by a series of massive lawsuits now pending from liberal big-city mayors against the major oil companies.
The suits, filed by the cities of San Francisco, Oakland and New York, as well as a handful of coastal counties, assert that for years oil companies defrauded the public by hiding research — the litigants claim — that exposes oil’s damaging impact to the earth’s climate. The story goes that said damage will cause flooding, heat waves, drought and even death decades from now, costing these cities billions. And just to make sure they have all their Armageddon bases covered, they further claim that oil poses an “existential threat” to our existence.
The utter absurdity of these lawsuits starts with the fact that none of these accusations are true. There is zero evidence the oil companies hid research related to climate change. And despite legal allegations against them of knowing and intentional harm, as of this moment there still is no definitive consensus regarding long-term climate forecasts, including the contributory percentages of its causes or the degree of its impact on the planet on which these mayors claim to live.
Here’s a taste from San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, “These fossil fuel companies profited handsomely for decades while knowing they were putting the fate of our cities at risk.” Do you get it? Instead of using oil and its many byproducts to build a modern society that has created untold prosperity, raised millions out of poverty and given us every modern convenience in medicine, travel, housing, agriculture, lifestyle and communications, we should have been powering our homes and cars with giant rubber bands. Oops, never mind, those require petroleum to make, too.
There is certainly fraud involved in these lawsuits, but it isn’t coming from the oil companies. Similar lawsuits based on alleged damage from climate change were filed against oil companies last year by 17 liberal, anti-business state attorneys general and went nowhere. So outlandish have courts found these claims that even the liberal 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals tossed out a climate change lawsuit nearly 10 years ago. But the heroes of the left are not giving up.
Lacking not only legal merit, the current claims emanating from the citadels of the left are wrought with breathtaking hypocrisy, as none of the plaintiffs bothered to mention this overwhelming “existential threat” from oil to their own investors.
For example, California’s San Mateo County, now happy to speculate in court that oil has caused a 93 percent chance of a “devastating flood” by 2050 told investors in its latest bond issue it is “unable to predict whether sea level rise or other impacts of climate change or flooding form a major storm will occur.” Marin County, California guesstimates a 99 percent chance of flooding, and it too failed to mention this to bond investors.
In legal parlance this is called a “prior inconsistent statement,” but most people just see it as fraud and hypocrisy.
The legal theory under which these cities and counties are hoping to exploit is better known as, “you have money, and we want it.” It’s a brazen shakedown by financially bereft municipalities deep in debt from poor management and spendthrift policies. As of June of last year, New York City had a pension debt of $65 billion. Oakland and San Francisco have combined debts in the billions, and each city has yearly budget shortfalls. Is it any wonder they’re looking for a lucrative target to scapegoat?
To consumers and taxpayers, this money grab is nothing short of a massive assault on our pocketbooks. Should these lawsuits succeed even in part, Americans will witness higher prices for energy, food, travel, medicine, and every product that requires petroleum to make, package or ship, which is to say, everything. This will hit the poor, those who the liberals claim to champion, the hardest.
We will all then be faced with the increased costs of what will surely be exploding litigation. As one party stated in American Electric Power vs. Connecticut, a case where the Supreme Court tossed out state claims of global warming, such suits “could provide virtually every person, organization, company, or government with a claim against virtually every other person, organization, company or government.” It would be a litigation Mardi Gras with consumers paying the bar tab of glass tower law firms and the corrupt mayors who hired them.
Far from being a villain, America’s energy producers are in reality drivers of wealth, jobs and prosperity. Energy helped America recover from the 2008 recession with the boom in shale oil, and is now creating hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs across the country helping real people and their families. For the first time in a long time, America is now a net exporter of energy, helping strengthen our economy globally.
Meanwhile, the liberal mayors riding around in limousines tell the rest of us to take the bus. Their delusional and fact-challenged lawsuits may appeal to their far-left base, but in reality they are nothing more than a fraudulent attempt to have the courts turn the rest of us into dupes, and make us pay the tab for their financially declining cities.
• Gerard Scimeca, a lawyer, is vice president of CASE, Consumer Action for a Strong Economy, based in Arlington, Va.