America’s New Fossil Fuel Moment: Who's Side Is the Government On?

The lines are drawn, in oil as it happens. On the one hand, a growing number of cities, states and colleges, on the other, our very fossil-fueled administration and it spresident.


New York City announced January 12 a multibillion dollar lawsuit against five top oil companies, citing their “contributions to global warming,”  and lies to the public. New York City’s suit - the biggest in the nation - follows similar cases brought by San Francisco and other California cities last year. New York’s also divesting its massive pension funds from investments in fossil fuel companies, amounting to $189 billion from over 190 companies, over the next five years. It’s the biggest city, and the biggest hunk of money to move yet.

While Mayor Bill Deblasio and his team were doing that. President Donald Trump and his were preparing his first State of the Union speech. His cabinet, lest we forget, it stacked with former fossil fuel executives, Rex Tillerson, former Exxon Mobil CEO at State, Scot Pruitt, champion, at EPA, and that’s not anywhere near a full list. Surprise surprise, just hours before the State of the Union, Exxon Mobil announced it’ll be investing $50 billion in so-called American jobs, and gave credit to the GOP’s tax cut. (As if corporate giants don’t regularly get away with paying almost nothing in taxes, thanks to complex tax dodges and CEO payments.)

THanks to the convenient timing, and no one looking too deeply at the details, the President was able to claim credit for Exxon’s job-promise during his speech. " This is our new American Moment," said Trump.

On that one point we may agree.

This story isn’t really about a progressive Mayor vs. a fossil President. It’s about a shift in consciousness, shifted by people. The last few years have seen smart, persistent organizing on college campuses, in shareholder meetings, at law firms and city hall conference rooms. All that work has flipped what looked like responsible risk management, from investing in familiar firms, to getting out, and better still,, making them pay up.

New York City’s case isn’t DeBlasio’s case. It’s the people’s - it says so clearly in the complaint: New York City vs BP Plc, Chevron Corp, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp and Royal Dutch Shell Plc. makes the case that " Defendants Have Produced Massive Quantities of Fossil Fuels—and Have Continued to Do So Even as Climate Change Has Become Gravely Dangerous; Defendants Had Full Knowledge that Fossil Fuels Would Cause Catastrophic Harm; Despite Their Early Knowledge that Climate Change Posed Grave Threats, Defendants Promoted Fossil Fuels for Pervasive Use, While Denying or Downplaying These Threats; etc.

Read it your self, and then decide where you stand: with the people or the president. As he said. This is our New American Moment.

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