Big Oil: Up to its old tricks

Jul 17, 2014
By Jena Price

Big Oil is up to its old tricks. They've just launched a manipulative assault on AB 32, the most important clean air and climate law passed in decades for California--and arguably the nation--all to avoid taking responsibility to reduce their pollution. In a nutshell, oil companies think they deserve a free pass to pollute as much as they always have.

The really bad news? Their deceptive campaign appears to have convinced some members of the state Assembly to lend a hand.

(Take action: No Free Pass for Big Oil!)

Passed in 2006, AB 32 is California's landmark law to reduce carbon pollution in order to clean our air and fight climate change. The law is working, and California voters support it (the latest poll, released today, shows support at 68%). AB 32 is spurring innovation and creating jobs, helping us transition to a clean and thriving economy that isn’t dependent on dirty oil.

The most important component to cleaning our air and tackling California’s pollution under AB 32 is set to begin in a few short months. On January 1, 2015, transportation fuels – which contribute to a whopping 40% of our state’s global warming causing pollution--will be required by law to enter into California’s cap and trade system.  Requiring Big Oil to pay for their mess is a critical step to cleaning up California’s air so all communities can breathe easier. It’s the right thing to do.

As Fresno mom Sarah Sharpe says: "More than eight years after AB 32 became law, it’s shocking to hear that the oil industry is still not ready to cover the cost of reducing the harmful pollution that so deeply impacts my community."

But oil companies are doing what they do best: play dirty. They’re doing it at the cost of your health and the health of those most important to you.  All so they can protect what is most important to them: money. Last year alone, just the top five biggest oil companies made $93 billion--that’s $177,000 a minute.  

Read more here: 

In this latest attempt by Big Oil  to fool us all and maintain the old, dirty status quo at Californians' expense, they supplied so-called "technical information" about the supposed harm of cap-and-trade to Assemblymember Henry Perea. Mr. Perea convinced 15 of his fellow Assemblymembers to sign a letter asking the agency responsible for implementing AB 32 the California Air Resources Board (CARB), to give oil companies a special pass on complying with the law. He followed this up by adding new language to an existing bill, AB 69, carving out similar "relief" for Big Oil.

Simply put: Both of these moves would mean big profits for Big Oil and major costs for us Californians – especially low-income communities and families who are disproportionately affected by air pollution.

It’s no surprise that oil companies are doing everything they can to avoid compliance with the law. What is surprising is that our elected representatives would willingly help them do so.

We expect our legislators to stand up for us, their constituents, and rebuff Big Oil’s repeated efforts to repeal or delay implementation of clean air and clean energy rules. We don’t expect the legislators we elected,  who say they represent our values and the values of their voters, to buy in to Big Oil’s claims.

Environmental activists are taking action. Thousands of CLCV members represented by the co-signers of the letter authored by Assemblymember Perea have contacted their elected official to communicate how disappointed they are.

Meanwhile, other CLCV members are thanking their lawmakers who have displayed constant support of AB 32 and its timely implementation. Over 30 members of the legislature responded to the letter from their dissenting colleagues, submitting their own letter to CARB supporting all components of AB 32 implementation, including the most essential element to its success: inclusion of transportation fuels under the cap and trade system starting January 1, 2015. Business leaders and representatives of organized labor, along with leading economists, have also weighed in with official letters of support for California's cap and trade program moving forward as planned for several years.

The leadership they are demonstrating is far more important than simply the success of California meeting its requirements under the law.

We are facing the most important environmental and moral challenge of our time. Climate change is happening. It is not a future hypothetical situation. Its impacts are seen every day here in California. Fires are growing in frequency and intensity; we are enduring the third year of an historic extreme drought; six of the top seven most polluted areas in the country are located in California and the first six months of 2014 were the hottest in California’s history. This is not a “phase” we will move out of and without immediate action things will only get worse.

California has led the nation, and arguably the world, taking measures to reduce the impacts of climate change and make our state a healthier place to live and thrive for ALL Californians.  But the state's top polluters and greenhouse gas emitters, oil companies, have persistently pushed back trying to shift their responsibility on others--namely California consumers--without regard for the health and well-being of the communities and environment of our great state.

The last time oil companies tried to stop implementation of AB 32 by funding a ballot initiative we called the “Dirty Energy Initiative,” over 60 percent of California voters said “NO.” But they don't seem to have heard us.

Now that their deadline to comply with cap-and-trade is looming, oil companies are telling Californians they expect us to pay for their pollution not once, but twice: first in the form of increased asthma rates, lost workdays, and premature deaths from illnesses caused by air pollution, and next with the higher fuel costs that come along with doubling down on our addiction to fossil fuels.

Enough is enough.

It is long past time polluters pay for the irreversible damage they have caused and play fair under cap-and-trade like other major emitters of pollution. We must move quickly into the 21st century and find transportation fuel alternatives that do not cause asthma and air quality-related hospital visits and encourage a clean energy economy that does not leave future generations in a dire situation where nothing can be done.  We are a state and a nation that touts its innovation. Dirty, polluting, oil is not the way of the future; if we want to continue to lead, we need to rise up from the constraints Big Oil has placed on us for too long.   

We have been tasked with a responsibility, and inclusion of transportation fuels under the cap in cap-and-trade brings us one giant step closer to ensuring we uphold our role as the leaders of tackling climate change head on. Earlier this year, Governor Brown stated, “talk is cheap, action is difficult… but there is no place getting more done on renewable energy, reducing pollution, and confronting climate change, than the state of California.”

The governor is right. Rolling back our state’s landmark climate and clean energy law would have severe consequences, not just for the 38 million people who live in our great state, but nationally.

California is watching, the nation is watching, and the world is watching. We get to decide what kind of world we leave behind. California must keep pushing forward to make it better than the one we inherited.



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