On Monday, U.S. District Judge William Alsup dismissed two lawsuits brought by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland against five of the world’s largest oil companies: BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell. The California cities sued the companies to “abate the global warming nuisance,” attempting to hold them financially liable for rising sea levels and greenhouse gas emissions.
Alsup dismissed both lawsuits based on the incredibly large scope of the plaintiffs’ theory, which would have held any seller of fossil fuels anywhere in the world liable for climate change.
Before coming to his final decision, Alsup requested amici curiae briefs from both sides of the global warming debate on the effects of fossil fuels. Answering the call, Heartland Institute policy advisors joined a brief supporting fossil fuels. Additionally, Heartland Senior Fellows Joseph Bast and Peter Ferrara authored and submitted a Policy Brief titled “The Social Benefits of Fossil Fuels.”
Bast and Ferrara outline numerous direct benefits of fossil fuels in their Policy Brief, including the following four:
- Fossil fuels spurred the Industrial Revolution, which caused global poverty rates to plummet and living standards to rise. Since they are abundant and affordable, fossil fuels remain the best option to meet current technological and economic demands.
- Many of the labor-saving and life-protecting devices we take for granted—such as air conditioning, smart phones, and modern medicine—all depend on electricity supplied by fossil fuels.
- Fossil fuels have revolutionized agriculture by producing a sustained food supply capable of feeding an ever-growing and longer-living population.
- Atmospheric carbon dioxide, a fossil-fuel byproduct, is a basic “food” for virtually all terrestrial plants. Several studies confirm the growth-enhancing and water-conserving effects of increased CO2 in the atmosphere.
Alsup asked, “Is it really fair, in light of those benefits, to say that the sale of fossil fuels was unreasonable?”
No, concludes Heartland Policy Analyst Tim Benson in a new Research & Commentary about the affordability and necessity of fossil-fuel-powered energy.
“The higher energy costs guaranteed by a switch from fossil fuels to higher-cost ‘renewable’ electricity sources, such as wind or solar, would lead to slower economic growth, as affordable energy is the key to productivity growth and the production of virtually all goods and services,” wrote Benson. “Therefore, elected officials and agency regulators at all levels of government should repeal subsidies, taxes, and regulations aimed directly at reducing the use of fossil fuels.”
Until renewable energy sources are economically and logistically viable, states should not burden or constrain fossil-fuel production. Furthermore, they should repeal anti-fossil-fuel measures, such as power mandates, renewable portfolio standards, carbon taxes, and hydraulic fracturing bans.
What We’re Working On
Energy & Environment
New Studies Confirm the Safety of Fracking in Pennsylvania
In this Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson examines two new peer-reviewed studies showing the hydraulic fracturing process is not contaminating groundwater in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region. The first study, from researchers at Penn State University, analyzed data from 1,385 natural gas wells in Bradford County and found no statistically significant deleterious impact on groundwater related to a fracking increase since 2008. The second study from Yale University analyzed eight wells in Susquehanna County during a two-year period, before and after seven natural gas wells were brought into production, and concluded shale gas development was an unlikely source of methane in the studied wells.
Benefits of Catholic Schools Show the Need for More Education Choice Options
Benson analyzes a new report from the Fordham Institute in this Research & Commentary. According to the report, Catholic school students (across demographic groups) exhibit more self-discipline than their peers in private and public schools. The report found Catholic school students are less likely to argue, fight, act impulsively, or disrupt class compared to students in public or private schools. Catholic school students are also more likely to control their temper, handle peer pressure, respect their school and classmates’ property, and accept classmates’ ideas. Furthermore, these traits are prevalent among all Catholic school students—regardless of race, sex, socioeconomic, and immigrant status.
Budget & Tax
It’s Time to End the Skimming of Union Dues
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans discusses how unions are skimming dues from in-home care providers in several states and the need to end the practice. “Beyond the costs, it is also important to recognize the fact that dues skimming violates worker freedom. Forced membership infringes on the rights of employees to associate as they see fit; home care providers should be given the choice of whether to join a union, not have it thrust upon them,” wrote Glans.
North Carolina’s Insurance Reforms Would Help Save Families from Obamacare
In this Research & Commentary, State Government Relations Manager Charles Katebi examines a new proposal in North Carolina to expand association health plans (AHPs) as an affordable option to Obamacare. “After years of rising premiums, increasing deductibles, and diminishing choices, expanding AHPs would allow North Carolina families access to reliable and affordable health coverage. Lawmakers should implement these common-sense solutions, as well as additional reforms that would improve the affordability and quality of health care,” wrote Katebi.
From Our Free-Market Friends
Kirwan Commission on Education Puts Government Too Far into Classrooms
The Maryland Public Policy Institute (MPPI) studies Maryland’s Kirwan Commission on public policy education reform and the potential repercussions of these proposed reforms. According to the Maryland Public Policy Institute, the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations would create a highly bureaucratic system that would leave little room for student or teacher freedom. The commission’s recommendations would also greatly increase education spending, even though Maryland already increased spending by 45 percent from 1998 to 2014. Additionally, Kirwan would add to the already high ratio of Maryland school administrative staff to the number of teachers. MPPI argues the Kirwan education reforms, if implemented, would likely exacerbate the problems that currently plague Maryland’s education system, not fix them.
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