Despite best efforts to control COVID-19, it seems the novel coronavirus is everywhere. Even tucked away inside an amended complaint filed by Attorney General Maura Healey — the latest chapter in a public relations derived “climate change” crusade against ExxonMobil.
As if stubbornly pursuing a failed legal strategy isn’t enough, Healey’s team inexplicably inserted COVID-19 into her office’s complaint against the energy company, arguing depressed market conditions brought on by the global pandemic reflect a similar potential associated with climate change.
Healey’s far-fetched legal reasoning is explicit in the claim that ExxonMobil deceived its own investors by downplaying the perils of climate change. In fact, Healey’s lawsuit has little to do with the law. It has never been much more than a public relations stunt aimed at garnering headlines. The Beacon Hill Institute exposed this point recently. They criticized Healey’s climate lawsuit as being “based on belief, not evidence.”
As the report explains, previous attempts to suggest ExxonMobil lied to investors were rejected. In December, for example, New York’s attempt to claim the company misled investors was thrown out by the Manhattan Supreme Court on the grounds that the claim was “hyperbolic.” David Tuerck, The Beacon Hill Institute’s executive director said, “Attorney General Healey cannot escape the central weakness of a climate complaint that relies on an absurd premise.”
Healey’s decision to insert COVID-19 into her latest complaint is equally absurd. We now know a global pandemic will dampen the world’s fossil fuel markets. The virus affects just about every sector of the economy, not just oil and gas. If the pandemic proves anything, it’s the need to be careful about the companies that politicians use as political targets, especially so during an economic depression.
As the Wall Street Journal has pointed out, oil and gas companies are providing invaluable materials for products used to fight COVID-19. This includes ExxonMobil, a company that’s teamed with Univar Solutions to ramp up production of materials used in medical masks and gowns. The company’s efforts are expected to provide 200 million medical masks and 20 million gowns for essential workers on the front lines of the coronavirus fight.
Targeting specific fuel sources as “evil” merely ignores the reality some fossil fuels play in providing reliable low-cost energy. For example, fracked natural gas is detested by left-wing ambitious politicians yet, the resource is playing a substantial role in increasing the volume of reliable low-cost fuel, and reduces greenhouse gases. America’s shale gas revolution has played a central role in driving down the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions to the lowest level since 1992.
These facts represent a fraction of the benefits Americans enjoy courtesy of the natural gas. Today, the industry supports nearly 3 million jobs and is projected to produce up to one million more by 2025.
Massachusetts needs to import energy. Despite best efforts to strap solar panels onto buildings, or clear-cut forests for solar fields, our state currently does not have enough capacity with wind and solar alone. Unless nuclear is part of the discussion, which no one at the State House is willing to admit, Massachusetts will continue to import foreign energy during the coldest days of year. They do this despite American energy derived from natural gas being available.
As former Democratic Massachusetts Secretary of Energy Joseph Fitzpatrick explained, it would be helpful if Attorney General Healey “abandoned her irrational policy position on natural gas” and supported increased access in communities such as Holyoke, Southampton and Middleborough. He added, “Attorney General Healey has a multitude of options to help wage an effective fight against climate change. A 200-page lawsuit isn’t one of them. Healey should abandon pursuit of pointless, symbolic lawsuits against energy companies and focus on investing taxpayer resources in clean energy solutions.”
ExxonMobil is seeking dismissal of Healey’s lawsuit under state laws that protect companies from being unfairly targeted. The people of Massachusetts should call for Healey to drop her lawsuit for a simpler reason: it’s a distraction from what’s really important now. Get through the coronavirus and get workers back to work.
Paul Diego Craney is the spokesperson of Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance.