High Stakes for Climate and Clean Energy in California

As the full scope of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico continues to unfold, there's another energy-related drama in California. This one threatens the Golden State's landmark law (AB 32)  to limit the greenhouse gas pollution that is already harming California and to promote a host of related clean energy policies that would benefit the state. A proposition that is now certified for the November ballot, Proposition 23 --  known as the "Dirty Energy Proposition" -- would kill investments and job creation in the new energy economy already spurred by AB 32 since it was enacted in 2006. This is one of the most important environmental campaigns of 2010, with implications far beyond California.

Two of the worst polluters in California, Texas-based oil companies Valero and Tesoro, are also funding this backwards ballot measure (Proposition 23) that would effectively repeal AB 32 and the clean energy policies such as clean fuel standards, pollution controls, and energy efficiency associated with the law's implementation.

The Texas-based oil companies supporting this ballot measure also have an insidious national strategy. They hope that by rolling back climate and energy policies in California, they can block progress in other states and derail federal climate legislation in Congress. Windfall oil profits allow these oil companies to pour millions of dollars into their campaign of disinformation, distraction, and deception.  It is also worth noting that Valero and Tesoro were recently named the #12 and #32 polluters in the nation in the "Toxic 100 Air Polluters" report issued by the University of Massachusetts Amherst Political Economy Research Institute (PERI).

The bottom line is that we must stop Prop 23, which threatens to stunt and obliterate job growth in California's emerging clean energy sector (e.g., energy efficiency, solar, advanced building materials, and others).  In contrast, California's economy would benefit greatly from a properly implemented AB 32. As the Stop Dirty Energy Proposition website reports:

  • "According to a new report by California's Employment Development Department, more than 500,000 employees already work part or full-time in so-called 'green' jobs."
  • "In recent months, dozens of companies have announced they would be locating manufacturing plants in California, specifically because of [the] state's progressive clean energy laws." These companies include Tesla, Solyndra, Nanosolar, and Kyocera.
  • "There are 10,000 megawatts of renewable power in California currently competing for federal stimulus dollars – directly because of AB 32. The total public and private investment from these projects is $30 billion and 15,000 new jobs."
  • "Creating energy efficient commercial and residential properties and retrofitting existing buildings will create tens of thousands of jobs in California and billions upon billions of economic activity directly for building trades workers and product manufacturers."

There's strong agreement among scientists that California's on the right track and that turning back state law is a very bad idea.  Earlier this week, 118 economists wrote a letter which explained that "[d]elaying action...before initiating accelerated action to reduce global warming gases will be more costly than initiating action now." The economists added that policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging the development of clean energy will "improve our energy security, create new business opportunities and more jobs, and provide incentives for innovation."

Why would anyone want to stop this progress?  For an answer to that question, you need to ask the Texas oil companies, although it's easy to figure out what their motivation might be. Hint: it's a word beginning with the letter "m" and rhyming with "funny."

Fortunately, there's a large and (rapidly) growing coalition fighting against Prop 23.  A few highlights include: the League of Women Voters of California, Google, Levi Strauss, AARP, Pacific Gas & Electric, Consumers Union, the California Teachers Association, California Interfaith Power and Light, Governor Schwarzenegger, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and the California Federation of Labor. This past Sunday, the California Democratic Party unanimously voted to oppose Prop 23, declaring:

The California Democratic Party opposes Prop 23 because it will kill jobs, increase air pollution, and undermine our transition to a clean energy economy," said Tim Allison, chairman of the CDP's Environmental Caucus. "The Texas oil companies' dirty energy proposition is bad for our economy, our air and our energy future."

Also worth noting is that former Reagan Administration Secretary of State George P. Shultz has signed on as "honorary co-chair of Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs, a coalition opposing a proposed ballot measure to suspend the implementation of AB32."  Shultz says, "As a former Secretary of State, I see our dependence on foreign oil as one of the greatest threats to national security, and the Dirty Energy Proposition would undermine efforts to break that dependence."

For all those reasons, and many more, I strongly encourage everyone to fight Proposition 23 and to defend California's landmark clean energy and climate law.  Thank you.

P.S. Also, see this new video by Edward James Olmos.

Take action today for a cleaner, stronger, and more sustainable future. Join NRDC Action Fund on Facebook and Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest environmental issues and actions you can take to help protect our planet.


Hey California, Don't Get Fooled Again.

Down in the Lone Star State, they like to say that everything is bigger in Texas. I am not sure they were talking about the lies Texas companies like to try and sell the good people of California, but they should have been. In fact, with April 1st just around the corner, it seems that Texas Oil Companies bankrolling the initiative to suspend AB 32 are counting on Californians to be willing to be fooled again (remember what Enron did to Golden State anyone?)

Anti-AB 32 groups first relied on the now completely debunked "Varshney Study" to "prove" that passing this legislation would be the ultimate job killer and lead to skyrocketing consumer costs. But now that the Legislative Analyst's Office has torn the research to shreds, calling it "unreliable" and "essentially useless", the anti-AB32 force is focusing on some new junk science to stand in as a replacement.

The California Manufacturers and Technology Association (CMTA) is using an oil industry-funded study conducted by the Pacific Research Institute to support its argument of the negative impacts of clean energy legislation. And it's no surprise that CMTA is the voice promoting this study, since the group has already announced its support for "AB 32 Suspension" in a recent press release as well as shelling out big bucks as one of the main sources funding the "AB 32 Implementation Group" (which contrary to the title, is code for the force working to suspend AB 32).

But like we saw with the Varshney Study, just because you paid a scientist to create it doesn't make it true. So before you buy into the "facts", make sure you are aware of the variables that are manipulating the data behind the scenes:

  • The oil industry: Valero is a leading member of CMTA, contributing over $500,000 to help suspend AB32. Also, Valero lobbyist Michael Carpenter happens to be one of the board members of the Pacific Research Institute, which has funded the study.
  • The author of the study Thomas Tanton: consultant to the oil and gas industry and Senior Research Fellow with the Pacific Research institute where a Valero lobbyist sits on his board. He is also a former VP at the Institute for Energy Research (IER), an organization funded by oil and gas interests, which has received over $200,000 of funding from ExxonMobil.
  • CMTA's VP of Government Relations, Dorothy Rothrock: was an industry energy consultant for years before joining CMTA. From the moment AB 32 was signed into law Rothrock criticized it - even though unemployment was 4.8% at the time - which makes her support for enacting the initiative when unemployment levels reach that low again very doubtful.

Now that this report is in the same trashcan as the Varshney Study, we're sure that another one is on the way. Wouldn't it be better if the oil companies just stood up and said, look, we don't want progress on clean energy because we will lose in billions in dollars in profits? Wouldn't that be more honest? We doubt that will happen but in the meantime, don't be a fool this April.

AB 32 is a proven job creator and will continue to drive innovation and success for California. It's bad news for big oil companies, and we don't need to create a fake study to know that.



Hey Valero: Don't Mess With California

Often, despite perhaps intellectually knowing better, voters fall in a simple trap in politics and unintentionally take things at face value. Back in 2006, working with my friends Dave Johnson and Taylor Marsh on The Patriot Project, we uncovered numerous examples of major conservative groups who were attempting to influence the 2006 elections that literally were funded by a single, or very small group, of very wealthy right-wing donors.

For example, there was a group called "Economic Freedom Fund" that was paid for, entirely, with two multi-million dollar checks from Bob Perry, one of the original Swift Boat investors. In fact, the entire Swift Boat operation got the vast majority of its funding from a very small group of wealthy conservatives. (Note to T. Boone Pickens, if you were smarter, you would have supported John Kerry who may well have supported your Pickens Plan, just a thought.)

My opinion is, of course, that anyone has the right to spend and back any plan or candidate, it's called freedom of speech.

But it's also important to know who you are actually speaking to.

Starting right now, we see a perfect example of this in California, where Californians have chosen to not support or fund a ballot initiative to repeal AB 32, a clean energy bill that is leading to not only job growth in California, but a stronger future for the state.

It is a bill that was supported by Republicans and Democrats alike in California, and one that was signed by a Republican Governor and it is a program that is working.

Of course, it is not supported by major oil companies who are determined to protect their profits and their businesses in the long term, believing that the more they can delay the evolution to clean energy, the more money they will make.

So when no California companies, and no wealthy California Republicans would finance the signature-gathering process needed to get a measure on the ballot this fall to stop AB 32, Valero, along with another Texas energy company, Tesoro, stepped up with the money.

These sources said two refiners based in San Antonio -- Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp. -- are the sole funders so far behind a proposed ballot initiative that would bring a temporary halt to A.B. 32, which would cut greenhouse gases across California's economy to 1990 levels by 2020, starting in two years.

Reached in San Antonio, a spokesman for Valero did not deny the assertion.
One can only imagine the collective reactions of Texans if two California companies stepped into Texas politics and paid millions to get a measure on the ballot in Texas.

Valero has a long and illustrious history with the environment, in 2005, the EPA (and mind you, the EPA under George Bush) hit Valero with a tidy $711 million fine, solidifying Valero's well-deserved reputation for being one of nation's worst polluters.

By funding the signature-gathering (all around California, when you see signature gatherers for this, remember that they're getting paid to do a job), Valero is not only going against the wishes of Californians, they are putting the lives of our men and women in uniform in danger.

John Kerry already has a post up today on this point today here at the Post.

The Center for Naval Analysis brought together a blue-ribbon panel of generals and admirals who concluded that "climate change is a serious national security threat." And General Anthony Zinni said flatly that if we don't deal with climate change now, "we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives."

If you are for some reason tempted to sign a ballot initiative paid for by one of the worst-polluting companies in the country that will increase their profits at the expense of your health and your state's best interests, and put our men and women's in increased harm's way, don't forget - you are also supporting an effort to "kill hundreds of thousands of jobs and chill billions of dollars of investment in clean energy and other green tech jobs in California".

Opposition groups have leveraged public fears and insecurities to claim that AB 32 would only destroy more jobs, when in actuality suspending AB 32 would be the real nail in the coffin for the California economy.

Big oil companies are trying to prove their distorted view based on the highly criticized Varshney/Tootelin Report (VTR). The VTR has been cited as nothing but "false and biased and greatly overblown", "based on poor logic and unsound economic analysis" and as "one of the worst examples of schlock science we've ever seen".

Not to mention Varshney and Tootelin were paid $54,000 to conduct their study by the California Small Business Roundtable (which happens to be part of the deceivingly named AB 32 Implementation Group that is actually working to suspend the law on behalf of 22 of the 100 worst polluters in CA who are members.)

In summary,

  • one of the worst polluters in America, a Texas oil company,
  • is spending millions to repeal an initiative that has wide-spread support in California
  • so they can make more money
  • they are using a bogus report companies like them paid for
  • and they are hoping you sign.


California Global Warming Solutions Act Update

The California legislature and Governor Schwarzenegger are negotiating over a bill, AB 32, that would require California to cut it's greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020. The importance of California to solving the global warming problem can be seen by comparing it's emissions of greenhouse gases to the emissions of entire countries who report emissions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The Governor and the legislature have until Thursday to reach an agreement. Below is a status report (crossposted at www.blueclimate.com)

There's more...


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