New climate change lawsuits add another layer of complexity to the United States’ energy policy landscape. Environmentalists, politicians, corporations, and the Biden Administration are allegedly waging a war on fossil fuels, pursuing strategic lawsuits with the goal of furthering “climate change mitigation,” the “fundamental transformation” of America’s energy and economic systems, and environmental justice.
Part of their strategy involves imposing prohibitive regulatory standards that compel companies to abandon coal-fired power plants, gas-powered vehicles, and fossil fuel-based heating. They also employ “lawfare” tactics, using lawsuits to mandate regulations they couldn’t achieve legislatively.
Climate Change Lawsuits
A particularly troublesome strategy known as “sue-and-settle” lawsuits is causing concern. This involves environmentalists collaborating with federal agencies to fabricate policy disputes, which they then settle behind closed doors. These settlements often occur without any opportunity for the public or affected third parties to address the case’s merits.
State Court Actions
States and cities have also been increasingly filing climate change lawsuits against oil and gas producers in state courts, where they believe they have better chances. Delaware and Rhode Island have followed Baltimore, Honolulu, New York City, and San Francisco, among others, in pursuing such legal action.
Activists Attack Carbon Dioxide
These climate change lawsuits argue that “greenhouse gas” emissions that purportedly contribute to climate change cross state lines and must therefore fall under federal jurisdiction. Companies such as BP America, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Suncor Energy have appealed to the US Supreme Court to have these cases governed by federal law, but their request has not been granted yet.
This wave of litigation threatens to create a constitutional, scientific, legal, and public policy crisis for the nation, especially if verdicts lead to multi-billion-dollar damage awards. The fundamental question in these debates is whether carbon dioxide, which is naturally produced by humans and animals and is essential for plant growth, should be classified as “a dangerous pollutant.”
Bankrupting Energy Producers
Plaintiffs seek billions in penalties and damages to cover costs associated with mitigating climate change impacts, such as building levees and raising roads. Yet, they will have to reconcile with certain realities, such as the natural sea level rise since the end of the last ice age, or the fact that much perceived sea level rise is due to land subsidence in coastal cities, not rising seas.
These lawsuits also ignore the environmental impact of mining and processing minerals for “green,” “renewable” energy solutions like wind turbines, solar panels, and electric vehicles. As noted by Toyota Motor Corp., over 300 new lithium, cobalt, nickel, and graphite mines would be needed by 2035 just to meet expected battery demand.
The methods of obtaining and refining these minerals are often ecologically harmful and reliant on fossil fuels, contradicting the pursuit of a clean, green, and sustainable energy future. Furthermore, implementing these alternative energy sources on a massive scale would require land and resource-intensive infrastructure, leading to wildlife habitat destruction and pollution from worn-out equipment.
Inconvenient Truths About Clean Energy
The environmental crusade led by Western elites faces an inconvenient truth: the pursuit of clean energy sources often overlooks the human and environmental toll on poorer countries that supply the raw materials necessary for these technologies.
Battery production, central to the envisioned green energy future, relies heavily on minerals such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel. Many of these are extracted from impoverished countries, sometimes under hazardous and exploitative conditions. Mining operations generally cause significant environmental damage, leading to deforestation, soil erosion, and water contamination.
Such contradictions challenge the perceived cleanliness of renewable energy, raising moral and ethical questions about the actual costs of a green energy transition.
Unthinking Western Populations Damage Underdeveloped Countries
Western populations have been persuaded by environmental elites that coal and gas are bad and lithium and cobalt are good. Lithium mining destroys the environment. Those people need to do their own thinking and reconcile their clean energy ambitions with the dirty footprint left behind in disadvantaged countries. This includes considering the full lifecycle of renewable technologies, from mineral extraction to waste disposal, and striving for solutions that genuinely respect both human rights and the environment.
Court Action Needed
As these complex issues continue to unfold, it’s clear that courts, regulators, and legislators will have a lot of work ahead to balance the multifaceted demands of energy policy, environmental sustainability, and economic stability.