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California AG Sues Big Oil

Edward Ring

Director, Water and Energy Policy

Edward Ring
October 19, 2023

California AG Sues Big Oil

“Don’t lie, don’t deceive, don’t hide from the public clean energy pathways forward, and don’t hide from the public the existential threat that fossil fuels created in terms of climate change and extreme weather and damage to the environment.”
— California Attorney General Rob Bonta, PBS interview, Sept. 20, 2023

Bonta’s statement exposes the inherent and fatal flaw in his case. You can’t lie when you’re telling the truth. And the truth is as explicit as it is heretical: The theory that fossil fuel creates an immediate and existential threat in terms of “climate change and extreme weather” is a theory. It is an increasingly discredited theory. It is not “settled science,” and it never was.

Millions of people doubt the climate crisis narrative, and the fact that nearly all of them are afraid to say so testifies to the campaign of intimidation, censorship, brainwashing, and litigation that is condoned and often coordinated by one of the most powerful and pernicious coalitions of special interests in the history of the world. Publicly challenging the “consensus” often spells career and corporate suicide. And that, too, ought to be obvious.

The policies being put in place to supposedly mitigate the impact of CO2 and other “greenhouse gasses” are enabling a massive transfer of wealth and centralization of public and corporate power. By micromanaging energy use via “climate action plans” and “carbon accounting,” literally every human activity becomes highly regulated and more expensive. This reduces the middle class to subsistence, enlarges the dependent class, drives small and mid-sized companies out of business, allows monopolistic companies to consolidate entire industries, and expands the size and reach of government to grotesque proportions. It erases liberties taken for granted in America for over two centuries, including unrestricted mobility and a reasonable chance to afford a home.

Thanks to environmentalists pressuring the state into imposing ridiculous “net zero” building codes, along with cordoning off cities to prevent the far less expensive option of building on open land, the average home in California costs over $728,000. Add to that the most expensive total costs for natural gaselectricitygasoline, and water in the United States, and the average Californian is lucky to have anything left over for clothing, groceries, or health care. Want to keep your kids out of the public schools? Good luck. On average that will cost another $16,000 per year in California, per child. And it is not tax deductible.

All of these costs are elevated either indirectly or explicitly thanks to environmentalist regulatory excess. The state has plenty of land for homes, trees for lumber, abundant reserves of gas and oil, and amazingly productive farmland. But in every one of these areas — the foundations of prosperity — environmentalist-inspired rules have restricted supply and raised costs. The only economic interests that have benefitted are monopolists.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta, for all his self-righteousness and phony demeanor, is not stupid. He understands the consequences of what he’s doing. But Bonta is a puppet. He is owned by public-sector unions, California’s most powerful special interest, and nothing will expand unionized government more than climate mitigation — more regulations meant to cope with the “climate crisis” means bureaucracy, more agencies, more fees, and more taxes.

In Bonta’s run for attorney general in 2022, he collected the maximum permissible contribution, $16,200, from 33 entities. Every one of them was a union-funded small-contributor committee. Every single one. Of his largest contributors, the first 52 were unions, nearly all of them public-sector unions.

Public-sector unions’ control of Bonta is reflected in his actions as attorney general. Does he use the power of his office to make a dent in rampant crime in California counties where district attorneys won’t prosecute criminals? Does he challenge court rulings that make it impossible to compel homeless addicts and alcoholics to move into safe shelters? Does he investigate the corruption that drives a homeless industrial complex of public bureaucrats, “nonprofits,” and politically connected developers who have snarfed their way through over $20 billion in taxpayer money in just the last four years, with billions more on the way, merely to make California’s homeless population bigger than ever? Has Bonta supported repeal of Prop. 47, which downgraded property and drug crimes in California? No. No. No. And no. Because if the answer to any of those questions were yes, Bonta would be defying the agenda of unionized government and their quasi-private-sector cronies.

Bonta has, however, sued a courageous school board that — gasp — decided to require parental notification if their children yield to transexual propaganda, online peer pressure, and classroom indoctrination to start “identifying” as members of the opposite sex. Because that’s none of a parent’s business, right? Let the government raise your child. More school psychologists and counselors, more administrators, more unionized public-sector employees, more union dues, more union power.

Which brings us back to Bonta’s case against Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and BP. Let’s not kid ourselves here. This is extortion. It might be perfectly legal, but it is extortion, following what is becoming a well-traveled path of “climate change litigation.” Sadly, the oil companies will probably refrain from fighting this as aggressively as they ought. The reality, which with aggressive counsel would come out in discovery, is quite likely that through the years, most oil company executives believed, with evidence, that fossil fuel would not cause extreme climate change or extreme weather.

Fossil fuel is not playing a decisive role in affecting climate, the climate is not rapidly changing in ways to which we cannot readily adapt, gradual warming will probably cause on balance more good than harm, fossil fuel has done far more to uplift humanity than to harm humanity — including generating the wealth we’ve needed to protect the environment from genuine pollution — and, even today, we are still nowhere near ready to replace fossil fuel with new energy technologies.

Why doesn’t Rob Bonta sue the five biggest environmental advocacy groups in California for their public misinformation campaigns, political lobbying and litigation that demonized loggers, ranchers, and private property owners, preventing them from performing the logging, grazing, mechanical thinning, and controlled burns that up until the 1990s kept California’s forests from becoming dangerously overgrown? Why doesn’t Rob Bonta, along with Gov. Gavin Newsom, publicly acknowledge that environmentalist pressure groups regulated sensible forest management out of existence in California, that a century of fire suppression, along with two or three decades of management neglect, have left tree density in California’s forests at five to 10 times what is historically normal, and that is the reason they’re dried out, unhealthy, and burn like hell?

For that matter, why doesn’t Rob Bonta sue EV manufacturers, and the environmentalist pressure groups that demand rapid and exclusive adoption of EVs? Hasn’t this led to a catastrophic uptick in mining around the world, in nations where environmental and labor standards are nonexistent? Perhaps Rob Bonta should spend some quality time picking cobalt out of toxic slurry in West Africa before he pretends more EVs will somehow save the planet.

All of this is willful ignorance. Bonta told a fawning PBS interviewer on Sept. 20 that if the fossil fuel companies had been, according to him, paragons of honesty back in the 1950s, “choices would have been different, like doubling down and investing on clean energy and phasing out of fossil fuel.” This is absurd. Even now, the materials science that may someday result in sustainable, affordable, practical batteries for EVs is still in its infancy.

Bonta is posturing. He might be forgiven for believing the alleged consensus on climate change, simply because everyone he’s surrounded himself with, including all his donors, are telling him the same story. But Bonta cannot be excused for his blithe indifference to the benefit of fossil fuel, the wealth and broadly distributed prosperity it has given people everywhere, the fact that it still provides more than 80 percent of global energy, the complete lack of scalable alternatives to fossil fuel in past decades, and the extraordinary technological challenges we still face to successfully replace it.

Rob Bonta needs to go back to prosecuting criminals. And if he wants to courageously face down opportunistic dishonesty and deception, perhaps he should look in the mirror.

This article originally appeared in The American Spectator.

Edward Ring is a senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013. Ring is the author of Fixing California: Abundance, Pragmatism, Optimism (2021) and The Abundance Choice: Our Fight for More Water in California (2022).

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