If the Democrats’ newly announced “Oil is the New Tobacco” campaign catches on, the nation’s potato chip and ice cream manufacturers may want to watch their backs, critics warn.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus is scheduled to host a forum Wednesday drawing parallels between the tobacco and fossil fuel industries in support of a coordinated effort to use the legal system to pursue climate change dissenters, starting with Exxon Mobil Corp.
The “Oil is the New Tobacco” event, co-hosted by the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, centers on the industry’s “concerted efforts to deceive elected officials, investors, and the American public” on climate change.
But critics say the campaign to probe Exxon for consumer and securities fraud makes as much sense as pursuing fraud charges against candy makers for being insufficiently forthcoming about their product’s contribution to tooth decay.
“Every ice cream maker is disliked by some obesity expert, but it doesn’t mean that every time an ice cream maker tells its stockholders, ‘Everything is great, we’re selling more ice cream this year,’ they’re committing consumer fraud,” said Cato Institute senior fellow Walter K. Olson. “It doesn’t matter even if the critique of ice cream is correct. You still don’t have fraud.”
Alex Epstein, who founded the free market Center for Industrial Progress, argued that it would be impossible for Exxon to have committed tobacco-style violations because the company would have had to “directly conceal or fabricate evidence.”