From the halls of Washington to the Gulf of Mexico, from the Niger Delta to the Yellow Sea, oil companies have long spread their hefty bankrolls and steamrolled their opposition. But victories in these places came all too easily for their tastes. For a real challenge, Big Oil is taking its checks straight to enemy turf — a fine, blue state known as California. It’s a battle on the West side, and it’s going down this fall.
On the oil crew we have Texas-based giants Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp. Their weapons? Dollar bills, of course. These companies have contributed three-fourths of the funding to pass California’s Proposition 23, an Election Day ballot measure that would repeal the state’s global warming law, known as AB32. This landmark, bipartisan piece of legislation is already curbing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants and saving thousands of lives. And don’t think this doesn’t matter if you’re not from California. This proposition is very much a test case, and AB32 is a model for federal action in the U.S. Congress.
Up against Team Oil, we have a slew of rational thinkers, concerned citizens and scientists, environmentalists, politicians, public health advocates, and yes — even power companies. PG&E, California’s largest utility, has joined the opposition to the measure.
The scariest thing is that the Proposition 23 could very well succeed. Supporters are always careful to frame the debate as a false one about jobs, an obvious sore point in these times of endless recession. They say that Valero and Tesoro are being “singled out for misplaced demonization.”
This, as you may expect, is far from the truth. Valero and Tesoro are actually some of California’s biggest polluters, and they stand to lose a whole lot more than the $4.5 million they’ve already spent to pass Proposition 23. But it’s the shareholders in these companies that are losers under AB32, not residents of the state. In fact, since AB32 was approved in 2006, it has already spurred billions of dollars of investment in California’s clean energy industry. To pin any overall job losses to this bill is a specious claim at best, according to none other than California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office. Not only is AB32 creating jobs, but gutting it would actually destroy overall jobs by crippling these emerging clean sectors, as the Center for American Progress has shown.
Even the proposition’s backers know that most Californians genuinely want to take action to fight global warming. In recognition of that, they are careful to pretend they only want to “suspend” AB32 until the economy recovers. But make no mistake: Prop 23 is about repealing AB32. Heck, Prop 23’s backers even sued California’s Attorney General over the wording of the ballot language, taking issue with the blunt terms of reality. Instead of being called “major polluters” who wanted the state to “abandon” AB32, they will now be “sources of emissions” who seek to “suspend” the law, thank you very much.
In what case would this proposition not constitute “abandoning” AB32? Well, as soon as unemployment drops below 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters, then Valero and Tesoro will be happy to take climate change seriously. Let’s see, how many times has California’s unemployment reached 5.5 percent? How about three times since 1970.
What’s most unsettling for those outside of the state is what this vote portends. If oil companies can buy their way out of new regulations in such a progressive state, then that doesn’t bode well at all on Capitol Hill, where Big Oil employs a small army of lobbyists to maintain their stranglehold on our nation’s energy policy.
Prop 23 is not about helping out Californians. It is about helping out oil companies, plain and simple. Both Valero and Tesoro are among the top 10 polluters in the state, and air pollution leads to 19,000 premature deaths and 300,000 respiratory illnesses in California every year, disproportionately in low-income communities.
We must show Big Oil that we will stand up to them. So how about this. Pledge now to take a stand in this battle. If you live in California, that means you promise to go to the ballot in November and vote “no.” No matter where you live, take the pledge to spread the word. Call all of your friends in California and tell them to do the same. Let Californians hear a national chorus calling for a defeat of this measure. Share this blog post or this pledge.
This is more than just about the future of California. This challenge is about the future of the nation, and California is only leading the way. Sign here now.
Photo credit: Ho John Lee, Flickr