Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio explained why the city was suing five fossil fuel companies:

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

Have they been punished for it? No. In fact, they've made trillions.

Think how cynical that is. Then take a look around you at the results. Swaths of California have gone up in flames. We are seeing snow in Florida. The Arctic ice is melting.

By his logic, the city should sue its mayor too.

An idea with merit

First, about the suit. History suggests the idea to sue Exxon, BP, ConocoPhillips, Shell, and Chevron has merit.

In the 90s, many people considered the idea of states suing tobacco companies crazy or misguided. After all, the Surgeon General warned the dangers on each package. Buyers were adults responsible for their choices.

But the suits revealed the companies lied, made cigarettes more addictive, marketed to children, and so on. The suits helped move popular associations of cigarettes from Humphrey Bogart to a diseased lung.

Does anyone doubt that fossil fuel companies are deceiving the public and profiting while taxpayers pay to clean up their messes? The courts are designed to resolve such conflict.

Leadership means personal responsibility

De Blasio seems guilty of knowingly, needlessly hurting the environment and using "the classical Big Tobacco playbook of denial, denial, denial." The Daily News reported:

De Blasio is feeling the burn from New Yorkers after he defended his insistence Friday on being driven 12 miles to the Park Slope YMCA in Brooklyn in a caravan of SUVs for his daily workout routine--even as he paints himself as eco-friendly.

He travels to Brooklyn daily, unnecessarily, polluting a caravan's worth for one person. One person can't pollute on the scale of Exxon, BP, ConocoPhillips, Shell, and Chevron, but as one person, he's needlessly polluting all he can.

De Blasio holds an influential office, including over 1.1 million students. Instead of leading through example, he's polluting more than probably any citizen in the city to exercise. What does he signal with fatuous, specious, self-serving responses, such as

The mayor insisted Friday that even if he took the subway, a car would have to follow him above ground the whole way there. "So those cars are running one way or another," he said.

He doesn't have to go to a Brooklyn gym at all! He doesn't have to leave his mansion.

He could read "I Do Burpees Daily Because I'm Lazy and Full of Excuses" and drop his excuses. He can get a full workout at home in a fraction the time he now commutes to the gym, without polluting, with all the benefits of exercise. He can go to a local gym.

Enron environmentalism

His mental gymnastics establish him as an Enron environmentalist--someone who lies about his needless pollution to declare him or herself environmental, as Enron lied about its losses and to call itself profitable.

Missed leadership opportunity

What do you think of people who say one thing and do another? ... especially when what they do costs taxpayers (in vehicle costs, driver salaries, other staff salaries, fuel costs, etc), snarls traffic, and pollutes needlessly, with no benefit?

Think of the credibility he could have by backing the city-funded lawsuits with his personal behavior. It could help motivate city lawyers to win the case.

Think of the signal he could give the population to do as he did--if he acted consistently with his talk--instead of fatuously sidestepping the issue. He's giving the defense an argument:

You, Mr. Mayor, are doing what you accuse us of. Are you breaking the law?

Mr. Mayor, please help clean the city by living the values you talk about instead of making excuses why you don't.

Published on: Jan 17, 2018