Texas Oil Companies Funding Campaign to Overturn CA Climate Law


Photo: eschipul, Flickr, CC BY-SA

A few years ago, the state of California passed a landmark bill designed to reign in carbon pollution to 1990 levels by 2020, and Governor Schwarzenegger signed it into law. Now, the trailblazing law is beginning to take effect -- but wouldn't you know it? The fossil fuel industry and conservative politicians who ally themselves with it are attempting to shut it down. In particular, a number of Texas-based oil companies have begun funneling millions of dollars into misleading campaigns designed to overturn California's law.Proposition 23 is the Big Oil-backed prop that would overturn CA's climate law. Fueld by the Tea Party ideology popular in conservative circles, the GOP's top candidates for Senator and Governor have been publicly calling to overturn the law as well -- predictably, they're attempting to label it a jobs killer. Thankfully, California voters aren't buying the nonsense: Two out of three continue to support the climate law despite the opportunistic smear campaign from the GOP.

Which is where the oil companies come in -- perhaps disheartened by the positive polling, companies like Valero, Tesoro, and others, have begun pouring money into a campaign designed to convince the public that transitioning to cleaner energies and stimulating the development and deployment of renewable technologies will somehow kill jobs. In fact, that's precisely what the oil companies are calling their public front group designed to take down the climate law: The California Jobs Initiative. I don't know how much more disingenuous you can get.

The Wonk Room has more on the story:

In public, the repeal AB 32 campaign -- given the Orwellian moniker "California Jobs Initiative" -- says it is about helping low income people, small businesses, and improving the California economy. But behind closed doors, it's about boosting already sky high oil company profits. According to Valero's 10-Q corporate disclosure forms, the company views compliance with AB 32 as a risk to their bottom line.

According to a PowerPoint presentation obtained by the Wonk Room, Tesoro has been courting other oil companies to join their crusade to rescind AB 32. At an April 13th presentation to the Western States Petroleum Association, Dave Reed, a Tesoro refinery executive in Los Angeles, pitched his clean energy repeal initiative, Proposition 23. The Western States Petroleum Association is an oil trade group, like the American Petroleum Institute on the national level, that advocates for the interests of their industry, including expanded offshore drilling off California's coast. The Association is made up of many oil companies operating in California, including BP, ExxonMobil, and Shell Pipeline. Reed's PowerPoint drives home the message that cleaning the air and diversifying California's energy sources will have a negative "impact on [Tesoro's] business.

So essentially, the internal documents clearly reveal that the oil companies view reducing carbon emissions as a threat to their outmoded business models, so they created an initiative whose supposed aim is to protect jobs -- but they really just want to shut down the emissions rules. It's really not going too far to say that the oil companies are blatantly lying to California voters' faces.

And what's more, is that the oil and refining companies already involved (Tesoro, Valero) are recruiting other, even more powerful companies to contribute to the campaign.

Hmmm -- all this sounds vaguely familiar. A California law attacked by politicians seeking to exploit a culture war issue, and campaigns designed to mislead the public receiving millions of dollars of funding from outside the state by powerful donors? Where have we seen this before?

California voters, don't let the simple mantras and nonsensical rhetoric fool you -- the AB 32 climate law is an important milestone, and one that will help keep the state on the cutting edge of clean energy tech. And yes, Jerry Brown, the other frontrunner for the governorship, is right -- the climate law will create jobs in the clean energy and cleantech industries, and help expand and diversify California's economy.

More on the California Climate Law
Oil Industry Vs. California's Climate Bill
Surprise: California Climate Law Won't Devastate the Economy ...

Tags: California | Congress | Global Climate Change | Oil

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