California Sues Five Major Oil Companies for Climate Change as Gas Prices Soar

Gas prices have increased in California at a rate more than double the national average in just the last week.

AP/Michael Probst
A cyclist outside Frankfurt, Germany, as the sun rises on July 7, 2023. AP/Michael Probst

The state of California is launching a sweeping lawsuit against five of the world’s largest oil companies, arguing that they are “responsible for causing and accelerating climate change.” This comes as gas prices in southern California have begun to rise at the fastest rate of 2023. 

The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of California at San Francisco, alleges that the five oil companies and one industry trade group have engaged in a decades-long campaign to suppress information about the causes and effects of climate change, leading to diminished standards of living for residents of the state. 

“Oil and gas company executives have known for decades that reliance on fossil fuels would cause these catastrophic results, but they suppressed that information from the public and policymakers by actively pushing out disinformation on the topic,” the lawsuit states. “Their deception caused a delayed societal response to global warming. And their misconduct has resulted in tremendous costs to people, property, and natural resources, which continue to unfold each day.”

The lawsuit names ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and BP as defendants. The lawsuit also claims that a leading industry trade group, the American Petroleum Institute, was part of the scheme. 

Governor Newsom’s office praised the action, brought by state attorney general Rob Bonta, in a statement. “Big Oil has been lying to us — covering up the fact that they’ve long known how dangerous the fossil fuels they produce are for our planet,” the statement reads. “It has been decades of damage and deception.”

This sweeping lawsuit comes as gas prices in the Golden State have begun to rise at the fastest pace of 2023 — far outpacing the national increase. 

Many of the six defendants have yet to respond to the lawsuit, but Shell said that the company does not “believe the courtroom is the right venue to address climate change” in a statement to Reuters.

In a statement to Fox Business, the American Petroleum Institute said that California is engaging in policies and legal action that will only contribute to higher prices for its own citizens.

“This ongoing, coordinated campaign to wage meritless, politicized lawsuits against a foundational American industry and its workers is nothing more than a distraction from important national conversations and an enormous waste of California taxpayer resources,” the group said. 

According to data from the Automobile Club of Southern California, the average price for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline has spiked to $5.51 statewide, up 15 cents in the last week, more than double the national rise of six cents in the last seven days.

In southern California, the average price for a gallon of gas increased by 18 cents to $5.62. In the last month, the average price increased by 38 cents per gallon in the southern California region. 

Analysts blame both state policies and refinery shortages in California and global events for the rapid price increases.

“Our pump prices have been skyrocketing as a result of regional refinery outages, as well as from increasing crude oil prices following deadly flooding in Libya, which will temporarily disrupt oil exports from that OPEC nation,” said a spokesman for the Automobile Club, Doug Shupe. “These regional and global factors are putting upward pressure on both regular unleaded and diesel prices all across Southern California.”

Some of the firms named in these lawsuits have already promised to reach some of the most ambitious carbon mitigation goals proposed by Democrats like Mr. Newsom. BP has committed to becoming a “net-zero” company by 2050. Chevron has agreed to reach the goals set forward by the 2015 Paris Climate Accords despite President Trump pulling out of the agreement. 

In the United States, total carbon dioxide output has decreased dramatically in the last 20 years, while the global tonnage of carbon dioxide output has increased dramatically, according to data from the University of Oxford.

Between 2005 and 2021, America’s carbon dioxide output decreased more than 18 percent, to 5.0 billion tons from 6.1 billion tons.

During the same period, worldwide carbon dioxide output increased by more than 25 percent, to 37.1 billion tons from 29.6 billion tons. Since 2005, Communist China has increased its carbon dioxide emissions by more than 95 percent. 


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