Gushing oil in the Gulf Coast meets gushing oil money in California

This was originally posted on the California Dream 2.0 blog by Wade Crowfoot.

Boy oh boy, what a mess in the Gulf of Mexico, brought to us by BP. Millions of gallons of crude oil continuing to gush, along with mumbled excuses and transatlantic trips to yacht races.  Unbelievable.

Less known is that yesterday, California was delivered its own troubling environmental mess, compliments of two other oil companies, Valero and Tesoro.

Late yesterday, California’s Secretary of State officially certified a proposition for November’s ballot bought and paid for by these out-of-state polluters. The Dirty Energy ballot proposition—as it deserves to be called—would repeal California’s clean air legislation, AB 32, until the state’s unemployment rate falls to levels we’ve only see three times in 35 years.

According to the Secretary of State, more than $3 million has been spent to qualify it, 80 percent of that coming from special interests outside of California and 78 percent of which is oil money. Valero’s share: $1,050,000. Tesoro’s: $525,000.

You’d think these companies would be cleaning up their own environmental messes instead of looking to create new ones; Valero and Tesoro were recently named the nation’s #12 and #32 polluters in the “Toxic 100 Air Polluters” report.

What does $3 million buy in a California campaign? For starters, signatures that place this attack to our clean air and clean energy standards on the November ballot. Their campaign paid operatives to collect the 400,000-plus signatures needed to qualify it. They’ve also set up lobbying fronts under innocuous names that are lies – the “California Jobs Initiative,” the “AB 32 Implementation Group” – and paid for distorted “academic research” that claims that anti-pollution AB 32 will kill jobs. They then trumpet the fake findings in the media. Their dirty politics are on par with their dirty energy.

It’s particularly ironic that Valero and Tesoro are pouring millions into this attack while the Gulf continues to suffer. Oh to be a fly on the wall when Valero chief Bill Kleese and team decided not to spend billion-dollar profits on helping clean up the Gulf, but instead pour money into rolling back environmental laws in California.

If the Gulf catastrophe has any silver lining, it’s a wake up call about the energy we need to power America. You don’t have to be a bleeding heart environmentalist to be troubled by these facts:

  • Every day, we send $1 billion of Americans’ hard earned money to other countries to buy oil, a huge chunk of which goes to hostile, anti-American governments and leaders.
  • Five-dollars-a-gallon gas is not only a possibility (remember how high prices were when Bush was in office?), it’s an inevitability based on growing demand and finite oil supplies.
  • Our future economic success relies on access to energy. It’s literally what powers growth.  Without secure domestic, clean energy, we’re hostage to the whims of others’ dirty energy supplies. Do we want to stay dependent on countries like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, now, and leave that future to our children?

Of course, the specter of another major catastrophe in our own backyard lurks in the wings. If someone would have asked me whether an deep sea well could spew millions of gallons of oil and couldn’t be sealed for months, I would have said “malarkey.” A oil tanker running into the Bay Bridge? “Fantasy.”  But both became reality. What accident will happen next? And where? Every week, several huge oil tankers filled with crude oil gingerly navigate through the San Francisco bay. Amidst the Gulf Coast disaster, this is cause for concern.

On its merits, the Dirty Energy Proposition wouldn’t stand a chance in the state that’s been leading America’s environmental progress for 50 years. That’s why the Texas oil companies aren’t going to convince us with merits. They’re going to overwhelm with naked appeals to economic fear delivered by all the crooked, misleading TV and online advertising their money can buy.

For two months now, every day, we’ve seen images of the gushing oil well that is fouling our fragile wetlands and ecosystem, as oil washes ashore, covers and kills birds, turtles, whales and fish and threatens livelihoods. It will be interesting to see how Californians react to a local environmental mess in the making that’s been bought and paid for by out-of-state oil companies that are already polluting our Golden State.

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