What is the Price of the Planet?

On the 9th of November, 2015, New York State’s Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office put out this media release: A.G. Schneiderman Secures Unprecedented Agreement with Peabody Energy to End Misleading Statements and Disclose Risks Arising From Climate Change.

Previously, Schneiderman was reported as having subpoenaed ExxonMobil “seeking financial records, statements and other climate-change-related material dating back to 1977.”  Several media outlets reported this, in addition to USA Today, such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and too many others to list here.

Prior to those reports about the subpoenas, rumors were all over the place about ExxonMobil having lied for years about its research pointing to the deleterious effects of its raison d’être and having hidden this research from the public and government regulators. Bill McKivbben wrote a piece for the New Yorker on this, where he gave kudos to Inside Climate Change regarding their report two days before on their research about ExxonMobil’s actions.  According to the authors of the piece in Inside Climate Change: “Exxon’s Own Research Confirmed Fossil Fuels’ Role in Global Warming Decades Ago.”

Back to A.G. Schneiderman.  So he’s going after ExxonMobil’s actions, potentially worse than that of the tobacco industry’s in hiding for years the negative health effects of smoking and also lying about their research on the effects of smoking.

And Schneiderman has forged an agreement with Peabody Energy, whose spokepeople, as is usual in these cases, neither confirm nor deny anything, but according to Schneiderman’s release, “Attorney General Schneiderman initiated an investigation of Peabody’s financial disclosures in securities filings in 2013. The investigation found that the company repeatedly denied in public financial filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it had the ability to predict the impact that potential regulation of climate change pollution would have on its business, even though Peabody and its consultants actually made projections that such regulation would have severe impacts on the company.”

Schneiderman’s agreement with Peabody and investigation of ExxonMobil hits those companies where it hurts – in relations with stockholders, the value of the stocks not only of those companies, the monetary value of the corporations, but others in the fossil fuel business. And this is at a time when oil/gas tankers are lined up in the Gulf of Mexico waiting to unload at ports in Texas, because of the global glut of oil and the low prices of crude and at the gas station pump at the moment.   But that might rapidly change with any slight shock to the system overall, especially involving oil/gas producing countries.

The question for people in those areas still being fracked for oil/gas is why is no one, including Schneiderman, is going after all the drillers in the oil/gas shale plays across the U.S. (We’ll keep the discussion to the U.S. for now, but with the potential passage of TPP, the picture gets more “interesting”). Why is no one going after the builders of pipelines snaking across the entire country, in even those states not being fracked, such as Schneiderman’s state of New York? All that infrastructure (pipelines, compressor stations, metering stations) have been shown to contribute to the increase in not just carbon, but also methane in the atmosphere and thus to the increase in global temperatures.

Keep in mind that Schneiderman is a lawyer,  the attorney for the entire state, the state that contains Wall Street.  He did not make a public move against ExxonMobil until after the extensive research by a non-profit organization was revealed to the public. The move against Peabody was also after years of activity by those inside and outside of government.

Most likely, the proof of any chronic malfeasance and lying to shareholders, to the USEIA and to regulatory agencies, by the likes of Cabot, Williams, Schlumberger et al has to be produced in a proof positive fashion to the public at large and done by a trustworthy organization like Inside Climate Change, AND must relate to a policy, law or the like emanating from New York State.  In other words, for Schneiderman to act, some one or more private and/or public persons and/or ogranizations has to begin to dig up and document potentially incriminating evidence AND, most importantly, NYS has to have legal standing. In one or both of the situations with Peabody and ExxonMobil, Schneiderman is grounding his position on violations of New York’s Martin Act and Executive Law which prohibit false and misleading conduct in connection with securities transactions.

Back to Wall Street.

Is it because if such investigation of ALL the parts of ALL the fossil fuel industries goes forward, we are potentially looking at the collapse of the entire global economy?

Our choice right now seem to be allow the lies to continue so as not to die right away, but in bits, by slowly twisting in the choking wind.

And meanwhile, the corporate capitalist extractvist system carries on in India with coal and in the U.S. with yet more leases for drilling on public land along with yet more war and global military activity.

Cécile Lawrence, Ph.D., J.D., is a writer, college lecturer, activist, and hiker. Read other articles by Cécile.