New York City Has Become So Progressive it Plans to Bite the Hand that Feeds it – the Oil Companies

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Published on From Filmers to Farmers on January 26th, 2018

Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner
Lady Libertine (with no apologies to Emma Lazarus): "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled energy slaves yearning to exhale CO2 virtually for free, The wretched black gold of your teeming bowels. Send these, the unburned, tempest-tost to me, I fill my lamp beside the charlatan's door" (photos by David Saddler and Robert Byron)
Lady Libertine (with no apologies to Emma Lazarus): "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled energy slaves yearning to exhale CO2 virtually for free, The wretched black gold of your teeming bowels. Send these, the unburned, tempest-tost to me, I fill my lamp beside the charlatan's door" (photos by David Saddler and Robert Byron)

Who would've guessed it? New York City, the harmonious hometown of the chief litigator himself, Donald Trump, is planning to sue. By no means any more courteous or humble than its prodigal son, following divestiture of the $5bn in fossil fuel investments its $189bn pension fund holds, New York City plans to use what are possibly the only ridiculously deep-enough pockets in the entire world capable of ridiculously deepening themselves even further by actually suing five of the largest oil companies. That is, the very oil companies that over the years have enabled New York City to be so jacked up that it's earned the moniker of "the city that never sleeps".

A bit too harsh am I? Perhaps I've failed to realize how concerned New York City is with not simply climate change but also the effects it will have on the plight of others? Let's see about that.

What's first required here is a look at the justification for why New York City believes it deserves "billions of dollars in damages" from the five investor-owned fossil fuel companies it intends to sue: Exxon, BP, ConocoPhillips, Shell, and Chevron. As New York City mayor Bill de Blasio described it in a piece he wrote for The Washington Post,

For decades, Big Oil ravaged our environment. They knew what they were peddling was lethal, but they didn't care. They used the classical [sic?] Big Tobacco playbook of denial, denial, denial, and all the while they did everything to hook society on their lethal product.

From this we get rationale #1 with which New York City is basing its case on, that being the act of equating fossil fuel companies with tobacco pushers. To do so requires a serious stretch of the imagination though, considering that although Big Oil (Exxon, to be exact) came to know about climate change in 1977 and then proceeded to promote climate misinformation, prior to 1977 Big Oil in general would have been your run-of-the-mill profit-driven capitalist enterprise that for at least half a century earlier had done nothing out of the ordinary to get New York City "hooked" on its "lethal product". It of course didn't actually need to, because for the most part New York City voluntarily and giddily did that on its own.

Furthermore, it's a bit rich to compare tobacco to fossil fuels when tobacco is but a frivolous stimulant while fossil fuels are the "life force" that makes industrial monstrosities like New York City "go". Take away a smoker's pack and you may have one seriously irritable, ticked-off, but nonetheless mostly-functionable person. Cut off fossil fuel supplies to New York City and you'll have guns being pulled out at supply-hampered gas stations, grocery store shelves empty in two or three days, inoperable water and sewage systems within two weeks, and yes, even shortages of cigarettes. Shortages of the latter would of course be the least of New York City's problems though, because without fossil fuels New York City would quickly break out into utter pandemonium and would probably wish it had of been nuked to smithereens instead.

Secondly, and although we can put aside the fact that Svante Arrhenius' was (rather obscurely) writing about CO2's contributions towards a greenhouse effect back in 1896, de Blasio's statement that "For decades, Big Oil… knew" is almost as egregious as his comparison to tobacco pushers, seeing how the first cover-to-cover book focusing specifically on climate change appeared back in 1989 (environmentalist Bill McKibben's The End of Nature: Humanity, Climate Change and the Natural World), a book that was undoubtedly sold in fine New York City bookstores.

Any occasion is a good occasion for a parade in New York City! And will you take a look at those colourful balloons full of hot air – adorbale! (photo by United Nations Photo)

Why, may I ask, did it then take 25 years – decades – before New York City decided to take things so seriously that it finally held its first climate change parade, and then four years after that finally decided to sue Big Oil? Might that be because it had to wait before the science had definitively come in, and/or because it was forced to bide its time while climate change's foot soldiers raised enough consciousness? Maybe. But maybe, just maybe, it was also because New York City finally saw its opportunity to undertake what might very well come to be known as the greatest swindle of the (industrial) civilisation. For as Don de Blasio also stated in The Washington Post,

Today, we are saying, "No more." The time is long past due for Big Oil to pay the bill and take full responsibility for the devastation they have wrought. That by itself will be a major step forward, but it isn't enough. We know we have more to do. We are going to stop investing in the fuel of yesterday, so we can have a better tomorrow.

With New York City being one of the largest consumers in the world of fossil fuels per sq/km, what de Blasio's rationale is showing is that New York City has a complete unwillingness to own up to its role in fossil fuel usage as well as a complete lack of contrition. Fully ensconced within the bargaining stage of the Kübler-Ross five stages of grief, what New York City's Don is telling us is not only that it's up to Big Oil to take complete responsibility for all the fossil fuels New York City has burned over the past century (which it used to build up and then maintain its profligate lifestyle), but that New York City bears absolutely no responsibility for eagerly suckling upon the hind front teat of Big Oil, a front teat that from my vantage point looks like it might not actually be much of a teat.

Rationale #2 that New York City intends to draw upon in order to secure its bargain is based upon the recent notion that "renewable" energy can replace fossil fuels, the implication being that at some point in the future New York City (and the rest of industrial civilisation) as we know it can not only be sustained, but righteously sustained. Taking this premise one step further, New York City intends to reap billions of dollars by trying to convince US federal courts that instead of using Big Oil's "fuels of yesterday" yesterday it could have been using what we might as well call Big Renewable's "fuels of tomorrow". Yesterday. Or as de Blasio might as well have put it, "We would have been using clean renewables for the past century, but Big Oil tricked us into using dirty fossil fuels. Shame!"

Whether or not New York City can actually pull off this swindle doesn't interest me in the slightest, while what does interest me is yet another example of New York City's outright skulduggery. Because while Don de Blasio also railed against "an economic system that is harmful to our people" in his Washington Post piece, he had absolutely nothing to say about the Ponzionomic, fractional-reserve banking system that New York City's Wall Street is currently the locus for, and which by being the greatest wealth pump the world has ever seen allows New York City to enjoy a "free ride" on the back(s) of the rest of the world.

I'll once again admit that I'm possibly being a bit too unaccommodating here, and that what I really should be doing is being a bit more patient before New York City and its Don redeem themselves by undertaking the much more than symbolic gesture (and the much more than baby-step divestiture) of kicking Big Oil off the New York Stock Exchange.

How does that saying go again? "When something-something fly"?

No, New York City's finest probably shouldn't try to fly (photo courtesy of Jeff Kyle)

Opportunistic politicians aren't the only skulduggerists getting in on this action though, next in line being the eminent economist Jeffrey Sachs who proclaimed that

There are alternatives to runaway climate change. North America has vast reserves of wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and other zero-carbon energy to power the United States, Canada, and Mexico. New York can go green and electric by midcentury through electric vehicles, electricity-powered public transit, and electric heat pumps for buildings, powered by electricity from wind, solar and hydroelectric power.

Never mind that the notion of wind as a "reserve" is about as ingenious and riveting as passing wind, but as I've pointed out earlier the notion that we can power industrial civilisation as we know it on "renewables" is based upon similar kinds of lies and deceptions that fossil fuel companies and their acolytes have used, and continue to use, in order to promote their fuel of choice. Nonetheless, Sachs also stated – and you're going to have to brace yourself for this one – that

New York hosts Wall Street, the UN and the US media, [and] it will now be the centre of climate action too.

Which, I'll admit, kind of leaves me at a loss for words. Do we all just shoot ourselves now?

If you somehow managed to stick with us, and to round out the triad of skulduggerists, the Third Amigo – the aforementioned environmentalist Bill McKibben – stated in his article "New York City Just Declared War on the Oil Industry", that

New York, for one, isn’t taking it any more.

New York isn't taking it anymore? Riiiiiight.

"I'm mad as hell and I'm – wait, what did you just say? You want to pay me how much? Umm… yeah, okay, on second thought I think I can take it a bit more. This much more!"

Although I have to give McKibben credit for his 2003 book Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age (which as far as I remember was rather excellent), I also can't help but think that McKibben probably should have called it enough after Enough, what with he being one of the most abhorrent examples of what passes off as an environmentalist, which in this case is someone who uses their stature to give legitimacy to obscenities like fossil-fuel-gorging New York City and thus – amongst much else – the very underpinnings of our environmental and climate change crises. To give just one example, McKibben also stated that

New York and most of the world's other great cities aren't viable if the sea keeps rising: they will be destroyed.

Which, if I'm not mistaken, should probably make one think about what exactly we're trying to preserve here: wilderness? Farmland? The "environment"? Humanity's place in it all? Or could it maybe be "great cities"? Because while I of course don't know about you, and although I'm vastly over-simplifying things here, I'm kind of the impression that rather than "New York and most of the world's other great cities [not being] viable if the sea keeps rising", it might actually be that "the seas will most certainly keep rising so long as we have New Yorks and other great cities". Don't try voicing "cynicisms" as such to McKibben though, what with he being of the reductive opinion that

Smart money has been pouring into renewables; dumb money has stuck with fossil fuel[s].

Bill McKibben and Amy Goodman (of Democracy Now!) at New York City's 2014 People's Climate Parade: "Okay, climate change. But do you also have any thoughts on the collapse of industrial civilisation and what it might imply for how we should approach the dilemma of climate change?"; "I wouldn't touch the topic with a 10-foot wind mill"; "Touché!" (photo courtesy of Eino Sierpe)

Because what we're actually dealing with here is by no means smart money vs. dumb money but rather dumb money vs. even dumber money, an equation of which you'll have to forgive me for not being sure if the common denominator is "dumbness" or "money". I'll leave you to try and figure out that one for yourself though, with perhaps a bit of assistance coming to you via our environmentalist Amigo's I-want-to-sound-even-more-ridiculous-than-the-economist-Amigo statement that

New York is different, and that's why its decision signals the start of a real rout. For one thing, of course, it's the center of world finance… [and] its money managers have a well-deserved reputation for excellence.

I tell you, I'm barely dodging these bullets here.

Anyhow, with it now cleared up for us that what the Three Amigos and all their amigoettes are concerned about isn't so much the general effects that climate change will have on us and the planet as a whole, but rather on how it will effect "great cities" and world finance, what the rest of us might find worthy of our time is to ponder over what New York City is going to try and do when it realizes that there's nobody and nothing that it can sue for the collapse of industrial civilisation. (Except God. Perhaps New York City has in fact built up high enough that it can in fact manage to sue God.)

"Roger that. Coincidentally enough we did in fact just learn how to fly, so if the commander in chief is sure we've got the bigger button then we're ready to unload on the Almighty. Awaiting your order" (photo by Iván Lara)

Because while de Blasio also stated that climate change is "perhaps the toughest challenge New York City will face in the coming decades" (I'm presuming one of the unspoken alternatives on the menu is New York City getting nuked to smithereens, something which even former president Barack Obama regarded as a possibility to be concerned about), one "non-perhaps" is that the collapse of industrial civilisation will make New York City increasingly nonviable, and with its influx of tributes perpetually dwindling it might be a good idea to think about what kind of austerity measures New York City will try and impose on the rest of the world in order to try and preserve its "greatness".

Oh yeah, and about that "greatness".

While de Blasio stated that it's his determination to "build a city that is more resilient in the face of rising waters and more powerful storms", what we find here is not only New York City's "great" synonym for resilience – opportunism – but also the delusional idea that New York City as we know it can ever come even close to what the pre-Madison Avenue word-bastardization of "resilience" actually is. Because to grasp the reality behind what New York City tries to pass off as resilience one need look no further than the idiotically described "bomb cyclone" that recently hit it, a storm that not only utterly crippled JFK International Airport and saw thousands of flights cancelled, but after a water main broke in its fourth terminal also saw the luggage of stranded passengers get deluged in a flood of water.

As tellingly described by Slate,

[I]t’s not surprising that the disruption was severe… [A]n airport like JFK… is a finely tuned and highly sensitive operation… There is no slack; its very efficiency makes it vulnerable to disruptions that are both predictable and, given the way the industry chooses to operate, unpreventable… Under pressure to run smoothly, the system overpromised its ability to do so at every turn, transforming one very snowy day into a chain of failures that would ensnare some travelers for an entire week.

Efficiency and a lack of slack are however the diametrical opposite of what "resilience" actually means. With New York City and its various facets similarly having virtually no resilience to speak of, and with it similarly having no more humility that its prodigal son cum commander in chief, it can only be expected that – supposing it doesn't get nuked first – when supplies of the "lethal product" it giddily "hooked" itself on start to dry up that it'll act little differently than a strung out junkie out to pilfer anything not tightly secured to the ground and/or locked away.

Count yourself warned.

In the meantime, and as Don de Blasio began to close off his Washington Post piece,

We know we're going to face opposition. We know powerful interests and cynical people will push back and hard. But we also know New York City has a special responsibility. We are a beacon to the world. People watch us. We didn't choose this battle, but we accept it willingly. We have to get it right and show what can be done.

I'm not sure if by "powerful interests" de Blasio was referring to the Almighty, but nonetheless, yes, New York City truly is a beacon to the world, a beacon of how much a parasite us humans can be on our fellow man.

Show us how one steals from the rich and gives to the rich New York City!

Yes, there's a second person in that photo (photo by Xu Kin)

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