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Don't Let Texas Oil Companies Kill California Clean Tech!


I guess it’s too much to ask the business-as-usual dirty energy companies to play fair. They see the writing on the wall as states like California take meaningful steps towards clean alternatives to burning fossil fuels. Now it’s clear their response will be to wage a cynical and deceptive battle that maintains the profits they earn from their dirty ways.

The latest is Proposition 23, a California ballot measure sponsored by two Texas oil companies (Valero and Tesoro) that aims to kill popular climate and clean air legislation known as AB32.

The proposition is a cynical effort to fool voters in the 2010 fall elections by appealing to concerns about difficult economic times. Proponents falsely claim that AB32 will cost the state jobs and money.

The reality is that California’s groundbreaking climate and clean air laws have stimulated billions of dollars of investment in renewable energy projects and technology. And according to the Employment Development Department, since AB32 was put in place California’s clean jobs have grown 10 times faster than other jobs across the state. Far from being a drag on the economy, AB32 is an economic stimulus that is helping to California lead the country’s development of clean tech industry.

The proposition is also deceptively worded to fool voters into thinking it would only temporarily suspend AB32 until unemployment dips below 5.5% for four consecutive quarters. It almost sounds reasonable doesn’t it? Until you realize that California unemployment has rarely gone to that level for that long in the past 30 years. Don’t be fooled. There is nothing temporary about Proposition 23, it’s a cleverly written spike meant to kill the legislation forever.

Here’s a simple question: do you really believe two Texas oil companies care that much about saving California’s jobs and economy? Or do you think maybe they’ll do whatever it takes to protect an important market, perpetuating their profit from selling dirty fossil fuels to our state’s residents. I think I know what the anwer is–so do you. Don’t let them get away with killing California’s clean technology industry.


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Geoffrey Styles's picture
Geoffrey Styles on Jul 6, 2010



 From the way you’ve described the two companies you’ve singled out–both of which have significant investments in California and employ thousands of your fellow citizens–you’d think Texas was another country, not one of the other 49 states that the citizens of my former home state sometimes like to forget share a union with them.  You’d also think that people and companies can only be politically active in their home states; if that were true, I rather suspect California would come out on the short end of any restrictions on inter-state campaigning. 

 AB32 is part and parcel of the regulatory climate that has caused millions of good jobs to leave California over the last several decades.  California’s parlous state finances are directly connected to these policies and the net loss of over a million non-government jobs since the end of 2007.  Counting green jobs against that background is like counting buckets of oil recovered from Gulf Coast beaches while the well gushes tens of thousands of barrels per day into the Gulf.


Geoffrey Styles's picture
Geoffrey Styles on Jul 7, 2010


The debate is not about jobs in the oil industry.  “Green jobs” may be growing, but that’s small consolation if overall employment falls, as it has.  It’s an indisputable fact that California’s policies, including AB32, have raised energy prices in the state relative to elsewhere.  Higher energy prices shift economic activity and harm all industries and businesses that use energy.  Compare gasoline prices in CA vs. the rest of the West Coast, for example.  Despite all its refineries and oil production, unleaded regular in CA averaged 19 cents per gallon more than in neighboring states, due mainly to the state’s difficult gasoline formulation rules.  The Low-Carbon Fuel Standard embedded in AB32 will only magnify this difference as it ratchets up over the next few years.  (Electricity prices show an even wider divergence between CA and its neighbors.)

A better way to look at this initiative is that it gives California voters a chance to tell their government whether they put a higher priority on reducing greenhouse gas emissions than on economic growth and overall employment–rather than the narrow set of green jobs that current policies promote.  Perhaps they do, and AB32 will be vindicated. Or perhaps they’ll conclude that they just can’t afford that at the moment, when their economic competitors across the Pacific have chosen growth above everything else.

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