Vermont just passed a law intended to charge oil and gas companies for the damages caused by climate change. Albeit with a slightly different approach, Vermont is joining over two dozen cities and states that are suing Exxon and others, claiming the oil and gas companies knew climate change was occurring back in the 1970s and did nothing about it. There are several reasons why Vermont’s law and these lawsuits have no basis and should be immediately thrown out.

First, the fact that a few scientists raised concern back in the 1970s does not mean that there was consensus within Exxon that CO2 emissions were an issue. Indeed, there are still some very smart scientists arguing that to the extent that CO2 is affecting the climate, the effect is minor compared to the natural phenomena that have been changing the climate for five billion years. And despite the oft published predictions of Armageddon, there certainly is no consensus as to what exactly will happen as the planet warms. If there is really no consensus now, then I’m sure there wasn’t consensus within Exxon back in 1978.

The next reason involves a simple question: How, exactly, do you determine how much those cities and states are being damaged, and what sort of compensation is in order? Because of the media’s hyperfocus on sensationalizing the topic, now every storm, every flood, every fire, and every drought are blamed on climate change. Obviously, that is false, as such events have been occurring since the beginning of time. Further, none of the plaintiffs acknowledge the benefits of fossil fuels… the underappreciated workhorse that brought us out of the Dark Age and underpins our entire life as we know it. Carbon energy hasn’t ruined the environment but has helped preserve it. The nastiest environments with the lowest life expectancy on the planet are where people have little, if any, access to energy.

Third, since Vermont and most of the other plaintiffs produce no oil or gas, exactly which companies are to blame for their emissions? Vermont’s emissions did not occur because Exxon produces oil and gas in Texas or elsewhere. Those emissions came because their citizens continue to consume the fuels that are crucial to running their lives.

Finally, and most importantly, had Exxon actually reached an internal consensus and had it acknowledged in the 1970s that CO2 emissions were an issue, what exactly was Exxon and the rest of the world supposed to do about it? Al Gore raised the alarm in 1993, and starting shortly thereafter, the world has been in a hysterical panic to “transition” away from fossil fuels. Over the last 30 years, the U.S. has spent billions and the world has spent trillions on the energy transition, yet in 2023, 82.5 percent of U.S. energy and 84 percent of the world’s energy still came from fossil fuels. Vermont is a perfect example. Because one in six homes are heated with wood (polluting, inefficient, but renewable so it gets the “green” light) and because Vermont used to use a lot of nuclear, only 62.3 percent of Vermont’s energy in 1993 came from oil and natural gas. Ironically, it has since eliminated all of its zero carbon nuclear energy, so in 2021, over 68 percent of its energy came from hydrocarbons. And somehow the oil and gas industry is to blame?

It is clear that had the supposed “energy transition” started in the 1970s vs. the 1990s, it would have made absolutely no difference. No matter how much money you pour into them, wind, solar, and batteries just do not replicate the abundant, affordable, essential, and always reliable energy from oil and natural gas.

In closing, Vermont’s law and these lawsuits are disingenuous efforts to place blame on energy producers versus energy consumers for the impacts of fossil fuels.  Ironically, none of those cities or states are clamoring for more nuclear energy, which is the only real answer to a carbon free future. If Vermont truly believes it is being irreparably damaged by fossil fuels, it is welcome to quit using them whenever it wishes.