New York State vs. ExxonMobil: One Step Closer to Dictatorship

A woman once provided me with a brilliant analogy about living in an abusive relationship. I asked her how she put up with it so long. She replied, “It’s kind of like being in a room with a foul odor. After a time, you no longer smell it. Then, when you have occasion to leave the room, as in a short break-up, and then return, you realize just how bad the smell is.”

An abusive relationship is like the way our government is becoming. Each day, it seems, a new boundary is violated or crossed. Yet most people seem unable to smell, or in any other way perceive the problem.

Consider the latest, reported by the New York Times:

The New York attorney general has begun an investigation of Exxon Mobil to determine whether the company lied to the public about the risks of climate change or to investors about how such risks might hurt the oil business.

According to people with knowledge of the investigation, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued a subpoena Wednesday evening to Exxon Mobil, demanding extensive financial records, emails and other documents.

The investigation focuses on whether statements the company made to investors about climate risks as recently as this year were consistent with the company’s own long-running scientific research.

Consider the assumptions implied by even making such a claim, or launching an investigation in the first place.

One, the government determines what the correct scientific view is. If a company spreads a claim in science contrary to the one the government holds as true, it’s automatically a potential or actual violation of law, as in fraud.

Two, it’s the obligation of a company to operate against its own interests. Global warming is a theory. All kinds of scientists have punched all kinds of holes in it. Other scientists support it, although not without qualifications. Nevertheless, this legal action takes it for granted that even in the presence of reasonable doubt and uncertainty, a company must take the line that would harm its own interests.

Some compare this to the suits against tobacco companies in the 1990s. Those suits took it for granted that tobacco companies were responsible for making customers addicted, and that smokers were the helpless victims who would never have started smoking if the companies had made more evidence available. However, those claims were also based on accusations of fraud. The federal government held that the tobacco companies were responsible for telling their customers, “Hey, this product is harmful.” Of course, cigarette companies already were forced to place this warning label on their products. It did not stop millions of people from continuing to smoke, knowing full well the probable risks.

The case against tobacco companies was unjust and flawed because it assumed people were not responsible for their choice to smoke, even though they are; and it assumed people were unaware of the dangers of cigarette smoking, even though that evidence was widely available since at least the 1970s, and had been forcibly imposed via the warning labels for decades.

Those who make the claim that oil companies like ExxonMobil are liable for (theoretical) man-made global warming for the same reason tobacco companies were supposedly liable for lung disease take it for granted that the case against fossil fuels is every bit as self-evident as the case against putting tobacco into your lungs.

This is flatly untrue. And that’s why this action constitutes government censorship, because the New York state government is now saying, “Either you agree with us on climate change; or you face legal consequences.”

It’s an open and “principled” attempt at censorship. “Either you agree with us, or you pay the price.” Where are Donald Trump or Ben Carson on this issue?

If the stockholders of ExxonMobil are not entitled to spread the scientific studies they wish, with discriminating customers deciding for themselves what they think, then what is to become of freedom of thought and expression for the rest of us?

And for those of you who hate oil companies so much, whom do you expect to bring the product to market? The Department of Energy? And if you prefer alternative fuels, then why are they not widely available? When you attack an oil company which makes its money not from fraud, but from the decisions of millions of willing customers who choose to purchase fuel every day of their lives, then aren’t you really attacking the customers? Aren’t you really attacking yourself?

New York is filled with people who support the environmentalist movement, Barack Obama’s heavy-handed attacks on the Constitution, and all the rest. Most New York voters probably think or feel, “So what? Give those oil companies what they deserve. It’s about time.”

But if the use of fossil fuels is as bad for the planet as smoking usually is for the human body, then what responsibility do these censorship-supporters have for using fossil fuels? And if they want oil companies attacked in this way, requiring millions of dollars in legal defense, then what will be the justification for their complaints when oil prices inevitably start to go up?

People who support environmentalist policies and lawsuits like this one are usually the same ones who claim to care the most about the poor, or the struggling middle class. But the poor and struggling middle class are the first and hardest hit by increases in oil prices.

We permit our government to strike out against producers of fossil fuels with a ferocity and vindictive hostility that would be better directed against Iran or ISIS – entities towards whom we display nothing but pacifism or indifference.

This is so morally twisted, and so psychologically backward, that I hardly know what to say.

Someday, perhaps historians will ask the question I asked of this perceptive woman.

“You were given a republic. Why did you fail to see you were losing it, right before your eyes?”

There’s a horrible smell in the room. Does anyone else detect it?

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