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California Attorney General Rob Bonta fields questions during a press conference on Aug. 28, 2023, in Los Angeles.(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
California Attorney General Rob Bonta fields questions during a press conference on Aug. 28, 2023, in Los Angeles.(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
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California Attorney General Rob Bonta spoke freely at the recent Climate One Conference in San Francisco about his lawsuit against America’s energy producers. In so doing, he may have inadvertently revealed its true purpose: to further increase the cost of fossil fuels to drive Americans to green energy alternatives. 

Historically, climate change activists have had a hard time selling the public on alternatives like wind and solar because they are too expensive. They have tried to address this by providing huge government subsidies. This has not been enough, so they turned to increasing the costs of fossil fuels – cutting production, canceling pipelines, and increasing taxes. Yet the gap between renewables and traditional energy remains.

Bonta revealed his motivation at the conference: Bury the fossil fuel industry in litigation brought by cities, counties, and states to make it, as he put it, “more expensive to be dirty than clean.” The goal is to find these companies liable for damages for the effects of climate change, putting money into an “abatement fund” to be used to advance the goals of climate activists. 

People v. Exxon was filed in California state court in San Francisco in September alleging that fossil fuel companies misrepresented the risks of climate change and intentionally delayed any response. The case asserts seven claims, including public nuisance, misleading advertising, fraudulent business practices, and products liability (“failure to warn”). 

But it appears Bonta is more focused on inflicting financial pain on the fossil fuel industry than the fund itself. Bonta said the abatement fund should be “billions of dollars to the bottom line of fossil fuel companies… That’s a cost.”

Given the global aspect of the allegations, the U.S. Supreme Court may soon weigh in. The industry recently asked the Supreme Court to review a decision that allowed a similar case filed by Honolulu in Hawaii state court to proceed under state laws. The industry argues the lawsuit is preempted by federal law because it seeks to regulate interstate emissions or commerce, powers reserved for the federal government. 

The lawsuit states, “In 2023 alone, the State of California has endured both extreme drought and widespread flooding, sprawling wildfires and historic storms, and an unusually cold spring and a record-hot summer.” Climate change is bigger than the United States; it is a worldwide phenomenon occurring over hundreds of years. Thus, pointing to singular weather events in any given year in one corner of the world proves nothing.  

The truth is California experiences droughts because environmentalists refuse to allow the building of sufficient reservoirs to maintain water from wet years to get us through the dry years. California has sprawling wildfires, not because of climate change, but because of forest mismanagement. Environmentalists block the proper care for our forests, such as managing brush, leaving them susceptible to bigger fires. Just look at Arizona where they have a much warmer climate yet do not have California’s wildfire problems.

The complaint further asserts, “These extremes are the products of climate change, and climate change is the product of widespread combustion of fossil fuels.”  Not only are these weather events not evidence of climate change, but Bonta also cannot prove fossil fuels are the cause.

Worst of all, there is no end to where Bonta is heading. The building and construction industry, among the largest emitters of greenhouse gasses, could be sued next. Then farmers and ranchers due to the methane produced on their farms. And then the people who knowingly consume these products.

Punishing U.S. energy producers and businesses is not a winning strategy for solving climate change, let alone for American prosperity.

James Breslo is a civil rights attorney and host of the “Hidden Truth Show” podcast. He was formerly a partner at the international law firm Seyfarth Shaw and a public company president. He has appeared numerous times as a legal/political expert on Fox ɫ̳ and CNN.

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