Desperate for Money, Chicago Sues ‘Big Oil’

Published February 22, 2024

Last year, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson sued Hyundai and Kia based on the absurd allegation that the vehicles they make are too easy to steal. Now, Johnson has set his sights on “Big Oil,” claiming that British Petroleum, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, Phillips 66, Shell, and the American Petroleum Institute deceived “Chicago consumers about the climate dangers associated with their products.”

“There is no justice without accountability,” said Johnson. “From the unprecedented poor air quality that we experienced last summer to the basement floodings that our residents on the West Side experienced, the consequences of this crisis are severe, as are the costs of surviving them. That is why we are seeking to hold these Defendants accountable.”

According to the complaint, the six companies engaged in “deception around their products’ role in causing climate change” and face charges of “Failure to Warn, Negligence, Public Nuisance, Civil Conspiracy, Unjust Enrichment, and violations of Chicago’s municipal codes concerning Consumer Fraud and Misrepresentations in Connection with Sale or Advertisement of Merchandise.”

The lawsuit seeks “relief in the form of compensatory and loss-of-use damages, penalties and fines for statutory violations … as well as associated fees, interest, and other relief as deemed appropriate by the jury at trial.”

In other words, the Windy City is seeking billions of dollars from fossil fuel companies based on the ridiculous assertion that they peddled products for decades that are now causing basements to flood on the West Side of the city.

I can’t help but wonder if this is a desperate money grab seeing as how Chicago is facing a $540 million budget shortfall in 2024. I also wonder if the recent influx of migrants to Chicago, which is costing the city millions of dollars per week, played a role in the lawsuit. After all, Mayor Johnson has been out and about hat in hand begging for funds from Cook County, the state of Illinois, and even the federal government to cover the cost of the migrant situation.

Of course, Johnson and his administration are also playing the race card on this issue. Angela Tavor, chief sustainability officer and commissioner of the Chicago Department of Environment, argues that “the lived experience of our residents tell us that [the] climate crisis disproportionately impacts under-resourced communities and exacerbates racial inequities.”

Tavor provides zero evidence or data to support her assertion. However, the message is clear: If you oppose this frivolous lawsuit, you don’t care about racial inequities.

On the contrary, this lawsuit by itself will intensify racial inequalities and will further deplete the city’s underserved communities.

How so? Well, for starters, do you think fossil fuel companies will want to do business in a city where they are viewed as criminals? Do you think fossil fuel companies will want to invest in a city where they have been tarred and feathered and accused of causing the end of the world?

If the six companies in the lawsuit decide to close shop in the Windy City, how would that impact the millions of Chicagoans who rely on the oil and natural gas delivered by those very companies on a daily basis? Would it improve their living conditions? Would it lift them from poverty? Would it even make any difference in the worldwide weather patterns that inevitably affect Chicago? In a word, no.

Ironically, this idiotic and baseless lawsuit will most likely result in Johnson’s constituents having less access to the affordable, abundant, and reliable energy that they crave.

Even worse, if the fossil fuel industry were to declare Chicago a no-go zone in the future due to their concerns of potential litigation, the city would cease to function. Life in Chicago as we know it would grind to a halt.

There is simply not enough “green energy” to power a metropolis the size of Chicago. Moreover, the cost of living in the city would shoot to the moon if solar and wind were the principal sources of energy for a city with approximately three million residents.

Here’s an idea for Mayor Johnson and those at City Hall: Rather than trying to squeeze the companies that your city relies on to literally function, perhaps you should go after the street criminals who are actually making Chicago unsafe, unlivable, and uninviting.

Photo by Jacob Waller. Creative Commons Attribution.