California vs. Big Oil: Judge Orders Plaintiffs To Find Benefits Of Fossil Fuels

The case may be nearing an end if the judge wants plaintiffs to find benefits that counter their argument.

By Irina Slav

Judge William Alsup who is hearing a case brought by San Francisco and Oakland against five Big Oil companies, has given the plaintiffs and Chevron a homework assignment that suggests the end of the case may be near. The two municipalities and Chevron must evaluate the positive effects oil dependency has had on the U.S. economy.

“We needed oil and fossil fuels to get from 1859 to the present. Yes, that’s causing global warming. But against that negative, we need to weigh-in the larger benefits that have flowed from the use of fossil fuels. It’s been a huge, huge benefit,” Judge Alsup from the U.S. District Court in San Francisco said.

Suing Big Oil for climate change is turning into the latest big thing. A UN survey from last year found there are nearly 900 suits focusing on climate change across 25 countries. The latest in the United States was former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger threatening to sue Big Oil for “first-degree murder”.

The San Francisco and Oakland suits were filed last September, and Reuters at the time quoted San Francisco officials as saying that the five oil companies “knowingly and recklessly created an ongoing public nuisance that is causing harm now and in the future risks catastrophic harm to human life and property.”

Full story at 

104 thoughts on “California vs. Big Oil: Judge Orders Plaintiffs To Find Benefits Of Fossil Fuels

    • Seeing we just celebrated Memorial Day, it seems appropriate to remember something that is often forgotten these days – In the early days of WW2, Rommel had invaded North Africa and trade routes to the middle east were closed down. The Allies rode to victory in WW2 on a flood of American oil production. No oil, and Germany wins the war.

    • Can the big D’s make up their mind; suing big oil and then complaining that Trump has caused gas prices to rise.

  1. Yes – fossil fuels have provided a huge economic benefit (that can possibly used to offset the “damages”)
    That being said, it is probably an incorrect legal standard.

      • I am not disputing that fossil fuels have brought huge economic benefits – Human progress was very slow and methodical until the start of the industrial revolution, then living standards began to skyrocket coinciding with the introduction of fossil fuels.
        that being said, It is still an incorrect legal standard –
        Though it makes it hard to argue that FF is killing the planet when life expectancies have gone for 40 -50 years to nearly 80 years.

      • This is off topic but I would like to ask if any readers of this fine site can direst me to a report or study that positively links co2 to any adverse affects to our climate. Thanks. Wm. Matlack

        • ‘This is off topic but I would like to ask if any readers of this fine site can direst me to a report or study that positively links co2 to any adverse affects to our climate. Thanks. Wm. Matlack’

          William, to the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence that links a rise in CO2 to increased warming or adverse affects to climate or life on earth. The rise in CO2 follows warming by about 800 years. Only if it preceded warming could it be suspect. We are currently in CO2 starvation mode and plant life would benefit greatly from a doubling or tripling of this gas.

          Please go to and contact me directly, pretty sure we are kin. P. Matlack-Klein

        • That is the main problem, there is no “provable” or testable evidence to show CO2 is harmful. In fact, CO2 is required for life on this planet to exist. Without CO2, there will be no plant life. Without plant life, “we” or any other animals would not exist.

      • I did the donkey work as a student on the acid rain and the introduction of sulphur scrubbers and more advanced electrostatic precipitators so I got to see the actual tests and the changes at the time. In one London power station the air in the chimney was ten times as clean as the air on the street outside but it did not get one single press release even though they wanted to give it front page until they got the result.

    • IANAL
      In a lawsuit the courts consider all kinds of things. An example is the plaintiff’s duty to mitigate damages. In other words, the defendant isn’t liable for damages caused by the plaintiff’s own stupidity or negligence.
      Given that the alleged CAGW is rather slow, there is plenty of time to take action to avoid its effects.

      • It seems strange that the plaintiffs are not now mitigating by stopping using fossil fuels if they are so sure they are causing such harm.
        I am at a loss as to how the judge doesn’t just ask them if they are continuing to use fossil fuels, and when they all say yes, just dismiss it.

    • He hasn’t said it is any kind of “legal standard”. It is simply evidence against the proposition of the plaintiffs. To be weighed and considered against the subjective evidence presented against “big oil”.
      I would point out that the suggested replacements for fossil fuel power couldn’t even be built without those same fossil fuels, and that plastics and other chemicals made from fossil fuels are additional benefits that would be very difficult and expensive or even, in some cases, impossible to produce without oil and gas.

    • Probably the biggest benefit is one never attributed to it and that is the reduction in slavery to near zero. Slavery was not eliminated by laws, It was eliminated by the reduction in the need for large quantities of very cheap physical labour thanks to steam engines and fossil fuels which could undercut the price in so many building operations.

    • Tobacco had little or no benefit so the lawsuit was all about cost.

      One could argue that food is also harmful and sue MacDonald’s for the cost of obesity.

      • That was just an El Nino spike (so far) and could return to Statistical Pause Conditions if current trends continue

      • The most recent el Nino may have pushed global temperatures to a record and broken the pause, but that is only a speculation. The higher temperature was only .2C as an aggregate of a widespread and very uneven sampling of worldwide temperatures. If AGW was a lab experiment and the sensors were as randomly placed as they are on the globe, the results would be thrown out as absolutely meaningless. Instead they are used as the basis for a religion. They aren’t and they do not validate ANY hypothesis!

  2. “Arnold Schwarzenegger threatening to sue Big Oil for ‘first-degree murder'”
    We already knew Ahnuld ain’t a lawyer.
    As for finding arguments for the other side, good lawyers are supposed to be able to do that. I could do it when I worked for the state legislature, and I could do it when I worked for a large international law firm, and I’m not even a lawyer.

    • RE: “We already knew Ahnuld ain’t a lawyer.”
      Years ago during his movie career the governator appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson to plug his latest film, which he did so enthusiastically (using the word “great” several times) that Johnny quiped, “I see the steroids didn’t affect your ego” to a huge laugh from the audience. Well it seems Johnny may have been wrong. The steroids apparently bloated his ego and shrank his intelligence significantly.

    • “We already knew Ahnuld ain’t a lawyer.”
      We already know he ain’t an actor either.

      • But he was ‘the governator” which is arguably a more significant position than actor or lawyer. Or at least it should be.

      • He made a good Turbo Man.

        He’s also a very determined man with a career.

        So, when he speaks like that, it is not because he’s stupid.

  3. “The two municipalities and Chevron must evaluate the positive effects oil dependency has had on the U.S. economy.”
    Listing the virtues of global warming would be virtually impossible for “Climatists”, because their beliefs are as firmly rooted as in any religion (“Climatism”).
    It would be like asking a Baptist to list the virtues of Satan.

    • The judge isn’t requiring each plaintiff to write an essay or some such. That’s why they have attorneys (or more likely, the paralegals) to do the grunt work.

    • I’m wondering what the odds are that the plaintiffs will come back with a claim that there are no benefits.

      • Zero chance. If you use something, you do so because it has a benefit.
        The benefits are at least the consumption of fossil fuels multiplied by what people paid to consume them. Over the last 100 years or so, that’s a pretty big number.

  4. good…I like this judge
    It’s stupid and frivolous anyway….he might as well teach them a lesson

    • Hobo Moons Cartoons

      I would like to see at least a proposed end to fossil fuel dependency with a greater focus on renewable energy.

      Nice goal. I too hope for a heaven on earth.
      Now, in the real world of real energy needs and real friction and real electrical resistance and real copper and real sunlight (for up 6 hours per day average) at 16-23% efficiency and a real cost to make, install and maintain solar and windmills for 16-24% efficiency factor over a year, how are you going to actually “do” that little Utopia of a Cartoon World allowing Hobo’s to get 100% employment at $15.00 per hour?

      • I would like to see at least a proposal for a Unicorn that farts rainbows and craps skittles.

    • Why would we want to replace cheap reliable energy with energy that is expensive and unreliable?

      • C’mon Mark! You can slave at manual labour for 14-16 hours a day and die young. You’ll be hungry but you’ll be Green! After a few billion have starved off there will be more food for whoever’s left, you’ll just have to harvest it with stone tools. Like the good ole days!

    • The cheapest way to end fossil fuel dependency and focus on renewable energy is to reinstate slave labor.

    • Why Mobo? Are you willing to have the same cost/benefit analysis done on renewables as is done on fossil fuels? I mean a really comprehensive analysis considering all costs and all benefits across all spectrums of society?
      Well I have some news for you! That analysis has already been done and fossil fuels come out as far superior to renewables. Such an analysis is too complicated for any one person or group to accomplish, but it is precisely the function of a free market to make such an analysis automatically.
      Generally speaking, the more free the market is, the better the analysis. Now, the energy market hasn’t been all that free for quite some time. Interventions in favor of of renewables have been continuously forced upon the market for the past 20 years from all different angels (legislative, regulative and especially public relations)! Despite that, the market is still loudly and clearly exclaiming that fossil fuels are a much bigger positive for society than renewables. Its not even remotely close!
      97% of all people on the planet agree! We want our fossil fuels!
      Despite this overwhelming consensus, there are still those deniers that believe renewables are better for society and insist that the vast majority are wrong. I don’t know, Mobo. It seems like you are just begging to be demonized for your refusal to go along with the majority!

      • Sorry, Hobo. I must have woke up on the wrong side of the dominance-hierarchy this morning.

      • This is a very good point! The market is an effective arbiter of the utility of any product. I would certainly invoke this as it can be a very concise and powerful point. Almost impossible to refute.

    • Developing the electric storage devices needed to make “renewable energy” practical would be a very good thing, but they do not exist outside fiction. The notion that if the devices are mandated, they will be invented is pure fantasy.

      • Necessity may be the mother of invention, but it has to be real, clear, and present necessity. A fake necessity from legal mandates isn’t enough, and even detrimental to the goal, as time and resources get wasted unnecessarily on suboptimal solutions pushed just to meet the mandate.

    • Hobo: What’s stopping you? You can file an amicus brief proposing an end to ff dependency and focus on renewables. It’s not what the Judge asked, but your use of computer/printer/paper and a car to drive to the clerk’s office will nicely answer his question re: benefits (that you seem to take for granted as you daydream about renewables, with no focus at all).

    • Hobo
      “I would like to see at least a proposed end to fossil fuel dependency with a greater focus on renewable energy.”
      Why? Until you can give a legitimate reason why or you can establish a way to do it without sacrifice why would anyone want to do this, just to make you feel good inside for solving an imaginary problem or do you actually want to be a hobo?

    • Hobo,
      If I might make a suggestion…end whatever dependence on fossil fuel products and services you deem necessary in your own personal life. Help those who express the same desire to achieve the same goals. Do not force your desires and beliefs on anyone that doesn’t agree with you for any personally perceived betterment of society benefits.
      To help you attain this goal, here is a partial list of the more than 6000 things that are produced from a barrel of oil
      And a hot 10 list
      Here are even more

      Insecticides, Ink, Floor Wax, Pens, Upholstery, Clothing, Boats, Sports Car Bodies, Nail Polish, Fishing Lures, Bags, Perfumes, Cassettes, Dishwasher Parts, Tool Boxes, Shoe Polish, Helmets, Caulking, Petroleum Jelly, Tape, Washers, Antiseptics, Curtains, Food Preservatives, Basketballs, Soap, Antihistamines, Purses, Dashboards, Cortisone, Deodorant, Footballs, Putty, Dyes, Panty Hose, Refrigerant, Percolators, Life Jackets, Rubbing Alcohol, Linings, Skis, TV Cabinets, Shag Rugs, Electrician’s Tape, Tool Racks, Car Battery Cases, Epoxy, Paint, Mops, Slacks, Insect Repellent, Oil Filters, Umbrellas, Yarn, Fertilizers, Hair Coloring, Roofing, Toilet Seats, Fishing Rods, Lipstick, Denture Adhesive, Linoleum, Speakers, Plastic Wood, Electric Blankets, Glycerin, Tennis Rackets, Rubber Cement, Dice, Nylon Rope, Candles, Trash Bags, Paint, Water Pipes, Hand Lotion, Roller Skates, Surf Boards, Shampoo, Wheels, Paint Rollers, Shower Curtains, Guitar Strings, Luggage, Safety Glasses, Antifreeze, Awnings, Eyeglasses, Toothbrushes, Ice Chests, Combs, CD’s & DVD’s, Brushes, Detergents, Vaporizers, Balloons, Sun Glasses, Tents, Heart Valves, Crayons, Parachutes, Telephones, Enamel, Pillows, Dishes, Cameras, Anesthetics, Artificial Turf, Artificial Limbs, Bandages, Dentures, Model Cars, Folding Doors, Hair Curlers, Cold Cream, Movie Film, Soft Contact Lenses, Drinking Cups, Fan Belts, Car Enamel, Shaving Cream, Ammonia, Refrigerators, Golf Balls, Toothpaste, and of course Solvents, Diesel Fuel, Motor Oil, Bearing Grease

      Remember to divest your life of fossil fuels and “leave it in the ground” requires giving up EVERYTHING that is made from it

      • Are you sure that the first item on the list will help to convince any green opponent? For this kind of people this will be an even stronger reason to oppose.

        • They are certainly welcome to Not use them in their own personal gardens and to buy Produce from the Organic Aisle in the store if they desire. (Though all produce is Organic in nature)

      • And shoes. Many plastic things could be made out of leather. This is going to cause problems for vegans.

        • Shoes would have to be Canvas with Cork insoles and Tree Bark or Slate bottom soles

          YEA “Click to Edit feature…WooHoo”

  5. This should be in Court Records. B.C.’s nine-page statement of claim alleges the intent of Alberta’s bill is to hurt to the province.
    “A significant disruption in the supply of gasoline, diesel, and crude oil from Alberta to British Columbia would cause British Columbia irreparable harm,” the document asserts. “In addition to economic harm, a sudden disruption in supply could injure human health and safety in remote communities.”

  6. The judge needs to make a ruling. To save the planet. That the fossil fuel company’s cease selling their harmful product in California.You’d probably get a new government in California post haste……..After the riots subsided.
    Of course he won’t but it would highlight the insanity of the case.

    • No, no, no … it would never happen that way. Instead, a State Board of fossil fuel useage and equalization would be created to … m a n a g e … use and distribution of dangerous fossil fuels. The politbureau elites would receive ALL the fossil fuels they desire because they are “essential” in the war against global warming. Then come the minor State Bureaucrats, they would receive generous fossil fuel allowances … then the average Californian … their fossil fuel allocation would be SEVERELY restricted and limited. Punishingly limited and restricted.

    • We have made amazing progress over the last few years and yet that fact goes unnoticed. The reduction in absolute poverty is almost miraculous and yet you do not hear about it.

    • One should also note that many of the deaths from famine in the last century, the 20th, were the direct result of famines caused, accidentally or deliberately, by totalitarian Communist governments, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc.

  7. The one part that bothers me about this is the judge stating “… Yes, that’s causing global warming. …”.
    How does the judge know that this is true?

    • Essentially the judge is bound, since both sides accepted that the use of fossil fuels causes global warming.
      The fossil fuel industry ought not to have made that concession.

      • There is nothing wrong with the fossil fuel industry having made the concession. CO2 definitely causes “global warming” because it is an acknowledged greenhouse gas, and the burning of fossil fuels puts CO2 into the air. (Those points are “settled science.”) The alarmists will tell you that the human influence swamps the natural influence and that it is going to be catastrophic. I would argue that human influence is small (though not zero) and will do far more good than harm. I would LOVE to see the alarmists put their actions where their mouths are and forego anything and everything having to do with fossil fuels, and then watch to see how long they last.

        • Yes, there is definitely something “wrong” with it, since the “greenhouse effect” is nothing more than “hypothetical BS.” The FACT is they don’t know that CO2 causes ANY warming at all, since the Earth’s climate system is dominated by NEGATIVE, not positive, feedbacks, which can be readily determined by the long periods of climate stability which simply would not exist in a climate system that exhibited positive feedback loops.

          CO2 has NO correlation with temperature whatsoever on geologic time scales (hundreds of millions of years, Geocarb reconstructions), and in the ice core reconstructions (tens of thousands of years), where there is a correlation, CO2 FOLLOWS temperature, up AND down, with the SAME time lag, like a dog on a leash. In short, the Earth’s climate history shows that CO2 doesn’t “drive” anything.

  8. It looks like California governor, Jerry Brown has benefitted from oil:

    In 1974, Jerry Brown ran for governor. Executives from Pertamina, the Indonesian oil company, gave him $70,000 — $350,000 in 2017 dollars.[7]
    Gov. Brown’s sister, Kathleen Brown acknowledged that her father gave her a “living trust” that originated from money earned by her father selling Indonesian oil in California, but Gov. Brown has never said either way whether he inherited his family’s oil wealth.[7]
    Whatever the case, shortly after he won, Brown started taking actions to defend his family’s oil monopoly in California.
    Brown appointed his former campaign manager, Tom Quinn, to be Director of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), who immediately changed an air pollution regulation in order to scuttle an oil refinery being built by Chevron, which would have introduced Alaskan oil into the California market, and competed directly with the Brown family’s oil business.[7]
    At the very same time, another top Brown political aide-turned appointee, Richard Maullin, chairman of the California Energy Commission (CEC) began pressuring the state’s utilities to burn more oil rather than shift to nuclear energy.[7]

    • Subsidizing Jerry Brown’s candidacy is an actual example of harm done by the fossil fuel industry.

  9. Well one big benefit, your honor, is a lot less horse shit.

  10. Every meal I cook is achieved by the combustion of natural gas -fossil fuel
    My refrigerator keeps my fresh vegetables cold so I don’t have to eat salted pork every meal – fossil fuels
    I survive each FREEZING winter because of natural gas firing my heater – fossil fuel
    I purchase groceries by loading up my big ass SUV with abundant food – thanks fossil fuels!
    My titanium and PLASTIC hip joint allow me to walk and work – thanks fossil fuels!
    I flip a switch to turn on a light, instead of burning whale blubber for illumination
    My internet and phone providers have giant server farms powered by electricity – fossil fuels
    I didn’t have to take a COLD shower this morning, fossil fuels heated my water – thanks!
    The wife and I took a beautiful drive, top-down, on a beautiful Memorial Day weekend, with complete independence and freedom of movement, on our own time – fossil fuels the whole way.

  11. “WE needed oil and fossil fuels to get from 1859 to the present. Yes, that’s causing global warming. But against that negative, WE need to weigh-in the larger benefits that have flowed from the use of fossil fuels. It’s been a huge, huge benefit,” Judge Alsup from the U.S. District Court in San Francisco said.
    “WE” is the key to this. The oil companies aren’t responsible for creating CO2. They are in the mining business. They mine, refine, and deliver products created directly from one of Earth’s natural resources. It is the “WE” that create the CO2, not the oil companies. Shouldn’t Oakland and San Francisco be going after all those that burn the product for individual or societal benefit? It is the routine individual, governmental, and societal decisions to use the product that are the “problem”, if there is one, and the cities and attorneys should be suing their citizens, themselves, and every entity that allows them to live as they do. That would go over big time, but is exactly where this judge should place any “blame”.

  12. It played a major role in building out the California economy without the use of a significant rail system or inland waterways. The trucking fleet of the nation was largely tied to the California economy as an external supply chain and it saved the west coast from foreign aggression in WWII.

  13. It’s a pity that this happens in high summer. It would be much more effective if the plaintiffs were sent to Alaska in mid winter to contemplate the question.

  14. The Judge knows what he is doing, standard legality :
    Exculpatory evidence is evidence favorable to the defendant in a criminal trial that exonerates or tends to exonerate the defendant of guilt.
    Mr Mueller is infamous for deleting such evidence.

  15. All new homes in California must now be equipped with 200 ft tall windmills, a small nuclear reactor, inefficient rooftop solar PV, and an overpriced battery system by order of the kangaroo court and the elected activists. Remember to pay your carbon tax on your way out.

  16. Benefits of fossil fuels.
    1. Without fossil fuels, it seems likely we wouldn’t have the resources to pay lawyers to file lawsuits like this one.
    It might be hilarious to see what the plaintiffs come up with.

    • Easy peasy. Save them all by throwing the switch points only part way, causing the trolley to derail at the turnout.

  17. Judge Alsup “… Yes, that’s causing global warming. …”
    While the judge appears to be impartial, as he should be, I think he is in error in this part of his statement.

    • The error is on the part of the defendants, since they did not contest the claim and effectively conceded it to the plaintiffs.
      To remain an impartial arbiter, the judge mustn’t argue points that the parties in the case have chosen not to.

  18. Don’t get any hopes up for this judge. That he would even hear this ludicrous nonsense says a lot of bad things about his judgement.

  19. And fossil fuels allowed California to growth without the use of colonial networks like Europe.

    • That’s serious nonsense. Europe grew by becoming more productive – that’s what growth is.I certainly can’t sell to my colonies unless I am producing more than I used to, because otherwise domestic demand goes unsatisfied.

  20. There’s a lot of ammo out there that can help these companies in this fight. For example, a very recent study by James Hansen and others mentions the following:
    Global warming in the past 50 years has raised global temperature (Fig. 1) well above the prior range in the Holocene (the current interglacial period, approximately the past 11,700 years) to the level of the Eemian period (130,000 to 115,000 years ago), when sea level was 6-9 meters (20-30 feet) higher than today.
    What this excerpt says is that the earth was as warm as it is today (assuming today’s measurements are accurate) 115K years ago while not pointing out that CO2 levels back there were we’ll below the safe level of 350 ppm. In fact, CO2 levels 115k years ago (per the graphs I’ve seen) was around 280 ppm.
    So how the eff can people conclude that the warming today is from fossil fuels when the same warming that occurred 115K years ago occurred with earth’s ‘control knob’ set a little cooler?

  21. The judge should tell the plaintiffs that he will hear the case if they give up their fossil fueled cars and everything that is made from fossil fuels. The cities should agree to cut oil and gas to their cities before the case is heard.

  22. Judge Alsup should order San Francisco and Oakland to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in their cities.

  23. It’s just so ridiculous, I don’t know why I keep reading follow-up posts to this farce-of-an-excuse-for-a-“lawsuit” story. I have a masochistic side, I guess.

    … “knowingly and recklessly created an ongoing public nuisance that is causing harm now and in the future risks catastrophic harm to human life and property.”

    Yeah, right, … without any complicity whatsoever by anybody who actually USEED fossil fuel, including, of course, those bringing the “lawsuit”.

  24. By the logic of these lawsuits, the oil companies should be paid trillions of dollars for the ancillary greening of the earth from the increased CO2, which has helped to reduce poverty and increase wealth everywhere in the world.

  25. Maybe the judge should order the plaintiffs to arrive in court with documented proof that they didn’t utilize any product or service that uses any Big Oil.

  26. And shoes. Many plastic things could be made out of leather. This is going to cause problems for vegans.

  27. finally a judge with some common sense…..look at this graph….,_Log_Scale.png

    at the beginning of the industrial revolution the gdp/capita in 1990 dollars was about 200 dollars…’s about 8000 dollars….all of that was driven by fossil fuels…none of it would have been possible without fossil fuels…..

    the population without fossil fuels would be about 1 billion today….and with we are at 7 billion…..that’s a lot of lives…all made possible by fossil fuels……

    the plaintiff will not be able to muster any argument to the net benefit fossil fuels have provided to man…

  28. I haven’t been following this suit in detail but I had hoped that it would trigger a discussion of the merits of AGW claims, especially after reading that Lord Moncton et al had submitted a brief for the court challenging the validity of the models based on forcing. So what happened to that? Instead I see articles that the oil companies lawyers admitted that global warming is occurring (not sure if they admitted AGW) but that admission is all that AGW proponents and the newspapers care about. To them global warming and AGW are the same thing. So by not even challenging the science of the models how do the oil companies expect to avoid future lawsuits around the role of fossil fuels in warming?

  29. We could do away with fossil fuels by switching to nuclear. The biggest problem is that a free society cannot prevent nuclear power from being 7sed to destroy that same society.

    The same thing would be possible with an improved battery. As battery technology improves a short circuit is the equivalent of a phaser on overload.

    A small battery with the energy of a tank of gasoline has no less potential to explode than does a yank of gasoline.

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