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Michael Swartz / Jun. 17, 2016

The Hidden Cost of Climate Compliance

The EPA obfuscates while government targets "deniers."

It’s an inconvenient truth that neither the free market nor Mother Nature has been cooperative with the Left’s climate alarmism. For example, the Left insists fossil fuels should come with a cost premium because the amount of carbon we belch forth from our modern lifestyle is adversely affecting our climate. Left for dead a decade ago, the American oil and natural gas industry has taken advantage of better technology to become a world production leader while global temperatures have remained steady for nearly two decades. Certainly there are pockets where the weather is abnormally warm or cold for a few years, but overall the steady worldwide temperature increase Al Gore and his Big Green friends warned us about went out about the same time Gore lost Florida.

But taunting “Gaia” comes with a cost, and the price is being exacted by both the Obama administration as well as a group of state attorneys general that are convinced Big Oil has something to hide.

In the former case, the EPA has accelerated the demise of the coal industry with its Clean Power Plan that we’ve previously discussed on these pages. Thousands of workers dependent on coal for their livelihood are among the victims of a scheme where the benefits have been oversold and the costs swept under the rug, according to a report from the Manhattan Institute, a free-market think tank. “The EPA’s cost-benefit analysis,” says the report, “significantly overestimates the direct benefits of CO2 reductions and co-benefits of accompanying reductions in air-pollutant emissions and significantly underestimates the specific costs of meeting future electricity demand.”

Yet for all the costs, the total impact of the regulations would be less than one one-hundredth (.01) of a degree Celsius by the year 2100, according to an EPA-sponsored climate model. It’s the sort of enlightening information that global warming zealots would prefer be kept under a bush, so they’ve developed a second line of attack.

It began last November with New York AG Eric Schneiderman demanding Exxon Mobil cough up thousands of pages of records detailing their research into climate change, and expanded back in March when the AG from (we kid you not) the Virgin Islands, Claude Walker, went on a fishing expedition against the climate-skeptical Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Walker’s lawfare backfired when CEI counter-sued, driving him to withdraw his subpoena. (CEI is pressing on with its counter-suit.) Even at the federal level, “This matter has been discussed,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

The latest to get in on this game is Massachusetts AG Maura Healey, who’s attempting to make the case that Big Oil has bought influence with a number of right-leaning groups to place them on the man-made-climate-change skeptic side.

Whether the cases have merit or not, the strategy of the recently-formed AGs United for Clean Power coalition seems to be that of death by a thousand cuts of legal harassment — not just of Big Oil, but of groups that believe mankind does not affect the climate. “I overlooked the likelihood that these investigations are designed not to uncover any wrongdoing, but simply to harass Exxon, by subjecting it to bad publicity and the costs of producing thousands of pages of documents in response to endless demands from partisan investigators. The process is the punishment,” said CEI’s Hans Bader. Imagine that same burden, but on a much smaller non-profit group such as CEI or any of the other conservative groups targeted by Healey.

And we can anticipate a string of similar suits brought by other members of the AGs United group, which represents 25 states, cities, and counties. It’d be enough to tie up a legal staff for years, particularly as the plaintiffs have the bottomless pot of taxpayer money to spend against the finite resources of most defendants.

It’s another economic cost brought to you by a government that thinks it knows best.

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