By CHRIS POWELL
Connecticut residents may be forgiven for thinking that two of their most successful politicians of recent years, Joe Lieberman and Dick Blumenthal, invented the modern practice of the state attorney general’s office, whereby they posed as “the people’s lawyer” and constantly thundered and brought suit against all sorts of villains abusing society, as if those as those villains were not part of the government itself.
But the practice of modern attorney generalship is only a variant on an eternal theme of mankind. H.L. Mencken summarized it a century ago. “The whole aim of practical politics,” he wrote, “is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”
Sometimes this is not much different than scapegoating, as it was the other day when Connecticut Attorney General William Tong praised the U.S. Supreme Court — which he usually denounces as the hateful tool of the political right — for refusing to interfere with state lawsuits accusing energy giant ExxonMobil of deceptive trade practices.
A statement from Tong’s office said: “Connecticut sued ExxonMobil in September 2020 under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, alleging an ongoing, systematic campaign of lies and deception to hide from the public what ExxonMobil has known for decades — that burning fossil fuels undeniably contributes to climate change. Connecticut is seeking to stop ExxonMobil’s lies, to hold ExxonMobil accountable for these unfair and deceptive practices, and to force civil penalties, disgorgement of profiles, and full disclosure of their climate research.”
That is, climate change is the oil industry’s fault.
Evidence abounds of profound change in Earth’s climate for eons before the industrial age. The Arctic holds fossils of tropical flora many thousands of years old, and the Sahara Desert is full of artifacts showing that in ancient times it was a fertile savannah. But Tong maintains that ExxonMobil must be responsible for climate change because the company didn’t disclose research suggesting that the oil it drilled and sold — oil that created and sustained the industrial age and was heavily taxed by government — produced heat and pollution, as if nearly all energy sources don’t also, and as if government and people generally haven’t always known this.
Someday solar and wind power may change this substantially, but even then the power needed to manufacture solar panels and wind turbines is not likely to be fully supplied by solar and wind power themselves. Indeed, nothing is likely to replace conventional energy for many years, and the recent increase in conventional energy prices has been far more damaging to the world than any climate change that lately can be directly traced to conventional energy.
Tong wants the people of Connecticut to think that they are not responsible for climate change but that ExxonMobil is — as if his constituents and state government itself haven’t continued to use conventional energy throughout the climate change hysteria.
But even if, as the attorney general seems to believe, climate change is caused by conventional energy and not, for example, by the ages-old precession of the Earth’s axis and the sunspot cycle, Tong’s own constituents are still more responsible than ExxonMobil is, since no energy company can force people to use its products. Conventional fuels remain a choice.
Government energy policy will always impose heavy costs. They will not be explained away by scapegoating.
POSTPONE EARLY VOTING: Despite the enthusiasm shown last year by elected officials and the voters themselves with approval of a state constitutional amendment authorizing early voting, it won’t happen this year.
Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas says obtaining new voting machines, devising procedures, and allocating costs between state and municipal government will require more time than remains before November’s municipal elections.
Connecticut’s next chance to try early voting will be the national and state election in 2024 — a major election that should not be experimented with. So the early voting experiment should be postponed until the municipal election of 2025.
Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut. (CPowell@JournalInquirer.com)