Cities Suing Big Oil Over Climate Change Forced To Answer About The Benefits Of Fossil Fuels

cities suing big oil over climate change forced to answer about the benefits of fossil fuels

Energy

Photo of Jason Hopkins

3:52 PM 05/27/2018

California cities suing over climate change must examine the benefits fossil fuels have had on civilization, per an assignment from a federal judge.

San Francisco and Oakland have initiated a lawsuit against five major oil companies in an attempt to hold them financially responsible for climate change. The case is being heard in the United States District Court in San Francisco. The oil companies being targeted — Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell — have urged U.S. District Judge William Alsup to dismiss the case.

Environmentalists have increasing taken to the judicial branch to wage war against energy companies, with a similar lawsuit taking place in Colorado. On Thursday, Judge Alsup gave attorneys for Oakland, San Francisco and Chevron Corp. an interesting homework assignment: create a 10-page legal analysis on whether the benefits of years of U.S. dependence on fossil fuels were worth the climate change it caused. (RELATED: An Oil Company Just Earned A Huge Settlement After Environmentalists Brought False Charges)

“We needed oil and fossil fuels to get from 1859 to the present,” Judge Alsup stated. “Yes, that’s causing global warming. But against that negative, we need to weigh-in the larger benefits that have flowed from the use of fossil fuels. It’s been a huge, huge benefit.”

Judge Alsup centered his questions on the “broader sweep of history” and the role fossil fuels played in both World Wars and the economic boom the U.S. experienced afterward. All five oil companies are seeking dismissal, but only Chevron will respond to the judge’s assignment since the other defendants are seeking dismissal on jurisdictional grounds.

“You’re asking for billions of dollars for something that hasn’t happened yet,” Alsup said during a back-and-forth with Steve Berman, the plaintiff’s attorney. “We’re trying to predict how bad global warming will be in 75 years.”

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