Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. My name is Raymond Cantor and I am Vice President of Government Affairs with the New Jersey Business & Industry Association. NJBIA is the nation’s largest statewide business association whose members employ one million workers in New Jersey.
While we respect the sponsor’s intent to address the climate change issue, NJBIA opposes this resolution for two specific reasons. One, climate change and the policies that are needed to address it are not a matter for the courts, but one for legislatures. Two, these suits, if filed, will go nowhere, and waste taxpayer monies.
Before I elaborate on those two points, let me take a moment to defend fossil fuels. While the fossil fuel industry is an easy strawman villain in the climate change debate, let’s take a step back and consider the historic benefits of fossil fuels.
Energy, in all its various forms and uses, constitute the fundamental building block of the modern economy. Having reliable, abundant, and affordable energy to run our factories, heat and cool our homes, and power our transportation sector has transformed our economy from an animal-powered agrarian economy to the most advanced economic system known to man. It has provided us with the power to create millions of jobs, elevate people out of poverty, and provide a standard of living never before accomplished in human history. It allows for our tax revenues that support the services needed by our residents. We take our energy system for granted because we merely flip on a switch and the lights turn on, we turn the ignition and our cars are powered up, and we turn on the furnace and our homes and offices are heated.
Since we stopped using whale blubber and trees as our primary sources of energy, our world has relied on cheap, abundant sources of fossil fuels, be it oil or natural gas. Fossil fuels have been the energy source that has driven our economy. I would venture to say that more people have risen from poverty due to the use of fossil fuels than for any other reason.
Extreme poverty around the world has also dropped to historic lows. In fact, the big success over the last generation was that the world made rapid progress against the very worst poverty. The number of people in extreme poverty has fallen from nearly 1.9 billion in 1990 to about 650 million in 2018. This was possible as economic growth reached more and more parts of the world, and that economic growth was fueled primarily by fossil fuels. I think it is also obvious to say that by lifting people out of poverty, especially extreme poverty, we are saving many, many lives.
And we continue to need fossil fuels today and will for many years to come. If the answer was so obvious that the blame for climate change is the fossil fuel industry, and the solution is to stop the use of fossil fuels entirely, then we should stop today. It isn’t and we can’t. This Legislature has not banned fossil fuel use because the fact of the matter is there is no current realistic alternative that can adequately support our energy needs.
Having said that, climate change is real, it is largely driven by the combustion of fossil fuels, and we must find alternative energy sources. We are already along on that path. Nuclear power, solar, wind, electric vehicles, hydrogen will all be part of our future. But so might natural gas and other hydrocarbon fuels until safe, affordable, and abundant replacements are available.
Climate change is a complicated issue; it is worldwide, encompassing complex and still not definitive science and it entails policy implications that will define how we live and prosper on this planet. Resolution of those policy and factual issues do not belong in the courts. They need to be resolved in national legislatures, through international bodies, and in working with state governments. This bill seeks an easy solution to a complex issue. Suing producers of fossil fuels in an effort to recover monies or limit production or their use is not sound public policy. We are on the right track in addressing our energy needs and need to maintain that course.
Legally, every case that has been heard on this matter has been dismissed by the courts. In American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a climate change nuisance suit holding that the federal Clean Air Act has preempted any such suits.
More recently, public nuisance climate change lawsuits filed against energy manufacturers that have been heard on their merits have been dismissed for the same reasons. These include cases brought by San Francisco and Oakland and New York City. The courts recognize that climate change and energy policy are maters of worldwide significance and need to be addressed in legislatures not the courts. If the attorney general were to actually file a lawsuit pursuant to this resolution, he would only be wasting the State’s resources and time.
NJBIA is willing to work with the sponsor, this committee, and the Legislature to address the real issues of climate change and our energy-dependent economy. Thank you for allowing me to testify here today.