The long and dramatic story of climate change has produced a series of novel lawsuits being filed against “big oil” and the U.S. federal government in the last five years. But in the future, it appears highly feasible activist groups will gather at the courthouse to sue renewable energy.
Regardless of which energy source (fossil fuels or renewable energy) is supplying the world, environmental impact is the fundamental source of activists’ dissatisfactions. But based on assessments from professional climate change scientists, the fear of “the end of the world” or humanity’s death from climate change is just operatic drama – and most natural disasters attributed in the press and by “experts” as “caused by climate change” fail to reveal several other factors that played a much bigger role in nature gone awry.
An excellent article that explains misleading climate change information can be found on Forbes.
Regardless, 2017 marked the year that California cities began filing novel lawsuits against ExxonMobil (formerly Exxon Corporation) and other leaders of the oil and gas industry. Since then, there are growing state lawsuits that allege the same civil violations that cities cite against the oil and gas industry.
Keith Ellison, a democratic socialist who nearly became Chair of The Democratic National Committee – filed suit in January against American Petroleum Institute, alongside Koch Industries and Exxon as Minnesota’s Attorney General. He accuses the fossil fuel industry of hiding the truth about climate change which they became aware of in the 1970s and ‘80s.
From the playbook of suing tobacco companies for their secret knowledge of manufacturing a known unhealthy product with an attempt to make profits from addictions, the environmental suits declare that Exxon continued making a product their internal scientists told them in the 1970s would lead to future environmental problems. Because the fossil fuel industry did not immediately buy into “global warming” or “climate change” theory at that time, it is believed they should now be punished and pay.
Collectively, various lawsuits declare injuries such as a loss of quality of life, violation of citizens’ constitutional rights, and allegations of deceptive trade practices. Another premise for the suits is that oil and gas companies have caused community environmental problems considered a “public nuisance,” such as rising tides.
The impact from these lawsuits includes some rather amusing and disgruntling reactions.
According to The Guardian, a left-leaning publication, “…although a federal court last year threw out a lawsuit brought by 21 young Americans who say the US government violated their constitutional rights by exacerbating climate change, the Biden administration recently agreed to settlement talks in a symbolic gesture aimed to appease younger voters.”
In the meantime, growing evidence of environmental damage caused by renewable energy is getting only an ounce of digital coverage. According to College of Natural Resources News, a publication of North Carolina State University, a new book by author and professor Chris Moorman, highlights proven damage to wildlife and the complete elimination, in some cases, of wildlife habitat to install solar power plants and equipment. Moorman is the University’s coordinator of the Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology program.
In his book, “Renewable Energy and Wildlife Conservation,” Moorman describes documented events that indicate wind turbines and other solar power sources have negatively, as well as positively affected wildlife. Some of the facts he presents include:
- Wind turbines, both land-based and offshore, kill millions of migratory birds and bats each year from collisions.
- Hydroelectric dams block migration routes for fish, preventing them from breeding and causing high juvenile mortality rates.
- Concentrating solar plants known as “power towers” produce beams of sunlight intense enough to incinerate insects and birds.
- The behavior of wild animals can change where renewable energy is placed.
According to the Institute for Energy Research, lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles sap so much water during production that parts of The Lithium Triangle of South America – where 50% of all lithium is produced – suffer from severe water shortages. Other equally detrimental effects are described in the research.
The College of Natural Resources News article also expresses wildlife concerns because state and federal policies are not yet regulating or restricting the permissible locations for solar power equipment to be installed, based on what has been learned thus far. Solar power demands far greater land masses for operations compared to fossil fuel production, yet the best placement for solar is in non-wildlife areas where stretches of land are far less available.
A veteran petroleum engineer with direct relations with the federal Bureau of Land Management, spoke confidentially with The Free Press, indicating that wildlife conservation issues with fossil fuel companies “are overblown by politicians.” He said, “You see it in lawsuits. We’ve had federal leases we’ve operated through in the Rockies, and an environmental activist group lost their lawsuit that claimed the Bureau of Land Management did not validate our work’s wildlife impact. (But) the industry is very good at exercising due diligence.”
That lawsuit was WildEarth Guardians v. United States Bureau of Land Management filed in 2019.
While lawsuits continue to grow against the fossil fuel industry and few people are aware of renewable energy environmental risks, a December 2021 interview between CNBC and Exxon Mobile CEO, Darren Woods, shed light on the development of new technologies that could seriously clean up the problems with fossil fuels. In collaboration with other project partners, it is developing a technology that would literally capture CO2 from the air during the energy production process to reduce or eliminate carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Other decarbonization projects are being executed to expectedly provide other solutions to the industry’s carbon emission challenges.
Meanwhile, during ExxonMobil’s search for renewable energy technologies, more lawsuits will likely rack up against it while state and federal policies lag behind ill-placed wind turbines.