Big Oil’s ‘Grass-Roots’ Groups in California

pol_climate37__01__970-630x420When oil companies mounted a public campaign in 2010 to roll back California’s nation-leading greenhouse gas restrictions, the effort backfired in a big way: 62 percent of the state’s voters rejected Proposition 23, which would have suspended California’s goal of slashing carbon emissions by the end of the decade. It was a major setback for the industry and strengthened the resolve of environmentalists and politicians to discourage the use of fossil fuels. On Jan. 1, 2015, the state’s cap-and-trade system is scheduled to expand to include gasoline, diesel, and other fuels used for transportation, which the California Air Resources Board estimates are responsible for 36 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Once again the oil industry is suiting up. The restrictions will cripple the economy and cost jobs, lobbyists say. But instead of making a direct plea to the public for support to delay or repeal the changes, oil companies are quietly working to make it look like Californians are spontaneously rising up in protest against the climate standards. In recent months, groups have popped up that appear to be grass-roots organizations started by ordinary people opposed to the rules. In fact, they’re paid for by the oil industry.

The most active group, the two-month-old California Drivers Alliance, describes itself on its website as a “movement of motorists, small businesses, fuel providers, and consumers.” It’s been running a slew of online ads, radio spots, and bold-faced ads in newspapers across the state, urging readers to “Stop the Hidden Gas Tax.” Mirroring an oil industry claim, the ad says the regulations will “increase the cost of gas between 16¢ and 76¢ per gallon.” One online video features a Hispanic mother of two who says she works for a nonprofit that helps immigrants and can’t afford to drive her car to work. “Many Latino families who only make minimum wage, we just honestly can’t afford for gas prices to go higher,” she says.

Asked where the alliance gets its money, spokesman Jerry Azevedo says the group’s funding comes from the Western States Petroleum Association, whose members include BP (BP)Chevron (CVX)ExxonMobil (XOM), and Shell Oil (RDSA:LN). He wouldn’t say how much money the alliance had received. WSPA didn’t reply to numerous messages seeking comment.

Another group, Fed Up at the Pump, says it’s a “grass-roots coalition of consumers, businesses, and advocates who are concerned about the negative impacts that a hidden, regressive gas fee will have on California.” It started a letter-writing campaign this year targeting Democratic Governor Jerry Brown. Like the alliance, it stresses the prospect of gas price hikes using the same numbers and wording—that Californians starting next year will pay up to 76¢ more per gallon. “Governor Brown,” concludes a prewritten letter people can send through the group’s website, “you must find a way to address climate change without hurting those of us already struggling to get by.”

In a recent poll, 76 percent of Californians supported the greenhouse rules …

Fed Up lists retail, manufacturing, farming, and trucking groups among its four dozen members. The four-month-old organization is the creation of a petroleum trade group called the California Independent Oil Marketers Association, which is made up of small and midsize oil distributors and retailers. Jay McKeeman, a spokesman for the California Independent Oil Marketers Association and for Fed Up, says the group’s goal is to pressure Brown to delay the January rules. “Let’s have a public debate about this with full participation of fuel consumers,” he says.

The groups echo the oil industry’s contention that the regulations amount to a “hidden gas tax”—though there’s not much hidden about it. In 2010 a California Air Resources Board report publicly estimated that cap-and-trade rules could raise gas prices 4 percent to 19 percent by 2020. The oil groups applied those percentages to today’s gas price of $4 per gallon to arrive at the ubiquitous 16¢-to-76¢ figure.

Severin Borenstein, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, says those numbers don’t add up. A study he conducted in August puts the price increase at 9¢ to 10¢ per gallon, the difference between driving a car that gets 30 miles per gallon instead of 31. “There’s a lot of hyperbole coming out of the oil industry,” he says. Azevedo of the California Drivers Alliance sticks by his group’s numbers and says, “We’d welcome a new analysis from the Air Resources Board.”

The climate rules, signed in 2006 by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, require the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The industry’s stealthy campaign to reverse or slow the regulations appears to be a long shot at best. A bill that would have delayed the January rules died in the state senate in August in the face of public support for the regulations.

… but that number dropped to 39 percent if it meant higher gas prices

The oil-backed groups have shrewdly focused their efforts where support for the rules is softest: low- and middle-income Californians who worry about high gas prices. Overall the climate policies remain very popular—76 percent of Californians agree that oil should be included under the new greenhouse gas rules, according to a July poll from the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonprofit think tank. However, when those people were asked whether they were in favor of the rules if it meant higher gas prices, public support tumbled to 39 percent. For the oil industry and its proxies to have a chance at getting what they want, says Mark Baldassare, president of the policy institute, “this has to be about working families.”

AB32 helps California move forward on curbing emissions

By CONRAD ANKER | August 29, 2014

When climbers team up to scale a big peak, they share the goal of making it to the summit. Success rests on training, detailed planning, clear communication, using the best available technologies and a bit of luck with the weather. If all line up, one might make the summit.

These values are at the core of The North Face, the company I have worked with for the past 31 years.

The challenges California faces with climate are our metaphorical summit. We have the foundation of planning and communication to achieve cleaner air without compromising economic growth. What we are lacking is a tool that will help us. One set of tools is AB 32, California’s pioneering clean-energy and climate law.

The North Face is among the many California companies representing various sectors of the economy that have sent representatives to Sacramento to voice support for AB 32. Our message to legislators: AB 32 is working. Let’s keep pushing forward, and stay on schedule.

That means no delay in bringing transportation fuels under the statewide emissions cap – an idea now being considered. Exempting the oil industry from taking responsibility for its emissions risks the economic and environmental progress our state has been enjoying.

AB 32 is delivering cleaner energy, healthier air and less pollution – all while our economy continues to grow. It’s helping California maintain leadership in the fast-growing clean-energy sector: A conservative accounting of our state’s clean economy found that jobs in this sector grew 20 percent from 2002 to 2012.

California policies, including the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, are driving more alternative fuels into the marketplace, boosting efficiency, spurring innovation and investment, diversifying our energy portfolio and building our resilience to gas price spikes. It’s no accident California retailers sold 523 million fewer gallons of gasoline in 2012 than they did in 2009, even as the economy grew. Those hundreds of millions of gallons of gasoline represent millions of dollars Californians have been able to spend at places other than the gas pump.

The transportation sector is California’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Any legislative effort that suggests the oil industry can delay curbing its carbon pollution, while the state’s other industries work to cut emissions, doesn’t make sense. Doing so would shift the oil industry’s share of responsibility for cleaning up its product to other sectors of the economy and to consumers.

Air pollution and climate change are serious problems, and voters support action, including cleaner fuels. In fact, 81 percent of Californians – including 69 percent of California conservatives – support requiring oil companies to produce transportation fuels with lower emissions.

We know that when it comes to protecting the community you serve, it is your duty to comply. That’s true even if there’s a cost. Profitable, well-run companies from the building sector to apparel to health care have to follow the rules and produce a safe product or service.

We’re doing our part, and our business is seeing economic benefits. The North Face headquarters building is LEED Platinum certified and produces 116 percent of its electricity needs through solar panels and wind turbines. Rather than paying an electric bill, we get money back from our utility for the extra renewable energy we generate. The facility also includes eight electric vehicle charging stations, and employees who drive electric vehicles to work are saving money on gas and saving time in the HOV lanes. California’s incentives for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and clean transportation were important factors as we considered these steps. These projects would not have happened without California renewable energy policies like AB 32 in place.

Companies have a choice about how to address the cost of doing business safely and whether or not to pass all that cost on to customers. The top five oil producers earned $93 billion in profits last year. This is not an industry without options.

Our company is proud to be part of the economic powerhouse that is California – the eighth largest economy in the world. We appreciate the opportunities AB 32 has created, and the clear market signal it sends. It is putting California businesses on a level playing field.

Making the summit is going to require astute leadership and the right set of tools. AB 32 is good for business and good for our health. Let’s keep it up.

Anker is a fifth generation Californian from Tuolumne County. He has summited Mt. Everest three times and is the Athlete Team Captain for The North Face, a member of Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP).


Read the full article at The Modesto Bee →

Cap-and-trade law levels playing field for reducing carbon emissions: Guest commentary

By Tom Bowman | May 27, 2014

For decades, polluting industries have argued that California’s policy approach to addressing cleaning up our air harms our economy. The misleading warnings and doom-and-gloom predictions haven’t materialized — instead Californians continue to support our state’s approach to addressing climate change, in polls and at the ballot box.

It’s unfortunate that some continue to spread misinformation, largely based on the messaging of certain industries like oil companies that want to escape the level playing field where others like automakers and utilities are already playing.

Despite what you might have read, California landmark clean energy and climate law, Assembly Bill 32, and its cap-and-trade program currently being implemented, are working just as intended. The state’s largest emitters must buy permits to pollute. The marketplace, not the state, sets the price of those permits based on supply and demand. The beauty of this system is that each regulated company must look to the future and figure out how and when to cut harmful emissions — and the need for permits — most inexpensively.

As a business owner, I appreciate that level of certainty, and it’s that predictability of AB32 that has allowed the program to thrive. California’s cap-and-trade program has been praised as the best designed in the world. And the system is working. More than $663 million in proceeds are available to invest in clean energy and communities impacted by air pollution. Then there is the 17 percent decline in emissions in California from sources regulated under the cap since 2008.

Meanwhile, California is a hotbed of clean energy innovation. Our state attracts more private investment than any other — more than $27 billion since 2006, according to the California Green Innovation Index — and with new investments come jobs. We are seeing a thriving clean vehicle marketplace — registrations of zero emission vehicles increased 62 percent between 2011 and 2012 — and with cleaner cars come savings at the gas pump.

Most new technologies are expensive at first. Just like calculators, personal computers and smart phones, solar power and low-emission vehicles are becoming more affordable all the time. As they catch on and prices drop, consumers have more options that can save real money on monthly energy bills.

So the question isn’t how much more gasoline might cost in the future. The question is how many options consumers will have to reduce their dependence on volatile gas prices in the first place.

The state’s clean energy policies like AB32 are creating more and more options every year, and Californians are enjoying the benefits.

Consumers also will get cleaner fuel and transportation options, with less reliance on oil, through policies like the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, a key component of AB32. A new study by ICF International, commissioned by a coalition of business groups, looks at the LCFS’s impacts on the economy — including employment rates, personal income, and gross state product, and finds that any potential adverse impacts will be negligible and will be far outweighed by all the positive impacts.

California’s LCFS and AB32 cap-and-trade program are structured to ensure that emissions in future years will continually decline. Capturing transportation fuels within the cap is essential to managing the largest source of emissions within the state.

Air pollution, drought, wildfires — these are all costly to our health and our communities. We will pay far more in the future if we don’t fully commit to reducing the impacts of carbon pollution today.

AB 32 is already doing what needs to be done: reducing carbon and air pollution for everyone. It’s a win for our environment, our health, our economy and our pocketbooks.

Tom Bowman is president of Bowman Design Group in Signal Hill.

Read the full article at Press-Telegram →

AB 32: California’s businesses appreciate state’s environmental planning

By Dan Adler and Mike Mielke | May 26, 2014

Business people are, by nature, careful planners. Most executives wouldn’t think of starting a venture without a business plan, detailed budgets and thoughtful growth plans.

It’s important to have the kind of information available that helps businesses decide how to invest and grow. So we were pleased to see the California Air Resources Board adopt the AB 32 Scoping Plan Update last week. It’s a road map for where California will be headed in terms of building a clean energy economy and tackling climate change.

It takes the long-term view, beyond 2020 and out to 2050, and it will help businesses figure out how to continue to innovate in and profit from California’s growing clean energy economy.

For businesses across the state, California’s pioneering policies on climate and clean energy have added up to opportunity — opportunity that didn’t happen by accident. The 2014 California Green Innovation Index, produced by the nonprofit Next 10, shows expanding consumer demand for the products and services of our state’s clean technology sector.

The index shows that jobs in California’s “core clean economy” — key clean sectors including energy efficiency, clean generation, and storage — grew by 20 percent between 2002 and 2012, compared to 2 percent growth for jobs in the state’s economy as a whole.

Over the same time period, renewable energy generation in our state surged 56 percent, and businesses across California have been growing as the sector expands.

Meanwhile, our state’s efficiency efforts are helping businesses cut costs. For industrial electricity consumers, average monthly power bills have dropped by 64 percent since 1992, according to the 2014 California Green Innovation Index.

California has grown so energy efficient that we create 1.7 times as much economic activity as the rest of the U.S. with the same amount of energy. This is a real competitive advantage. The state’s policies have been critical to the success of companies that we have worked with — companies like Bloom Energy, Clean Power Finance and SolarCity.

Now is the time for California to focus on how to build on this success. Our state should ensure that its energy efficiency and clean energy initiatives continue far into the future.

That’s why we are eagerly following the California Air Resources Board process for implementing the Revised AB 2 Scoping Plan and supporting efforts to lay the groundwork for AB 32′s next chapter. This landmark law only takes us through 2020, but we think the state should plan for what comes after that by gathering information on what scientists say is necessary, and what economists and technological experts think is feasible.

This is the kind of responsible planning that has worked so well for California so far. Setting ambitious but achievable binding pollution targets beyond 2020 will give businesses market certainty and help them identify where opportunities are likely to arise.

When it comes to climate and energy policy, businesses appreciate our state’s forward-looking stance. In fact, we count on it. And we will rely on the latest AB 32 Scoping Plan — and on further developments in Sacramento — when drawing up our own plans for a more prosperous, more sustainable future.

Dan Adler is managing director of the California Clean Energy Fund. Mike Mielke is vice president of environmental programs and policy for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. They wrote this for this newspaper.

Read the full article at San Jose Mercury News →