Undoing California's Climate Progress

A protest sign at a Valero gas station in Texas. Valero has provided significant funding to support Proposition 23, a measure which would undo California"s climate-change legislation.
© Mei Bo Chan

Two Texas oil interests are throwing money and weight behind the "Yes on 23" campaign pushing Proposition 23 in California—a bill that would undo the state's landmark global-warming legislation, and set back national efforts to put national climate change legislation in motion. According to a recent article in the San Jose Mercury News, the Texas-based oil refiners Valero Energy and Tesoro are the primary financiers behind Prop 23, donating well over $4 million, and they're being joined by "tea party" interests, particularly $1 million in funding from Flint Hill Resources, a Kansas oil company that belongs to Koch Industries.

In contrast to the popular notion that the tea party is a grassroots movement, Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, says: “When I see senior citizens out on the street corner holding "Thank You Valero" signs, it just doesn't jibe. Clearly the tea party is being used, and they are becoming the ground army for the oil refineries. Senior citizens would not come out to defend Valero unless there's some formal structure to get them out there.”

“Yes on 23” is being billed as a pro-jobs initiative, because it would put AB 32 on hold. AB 32 is California's "Global Warming Solutions Bill" signed in 2006 that would reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. It would also enforce mandatory greenhouse gas emissions caps by 2012 in order to meet those goals.

Proposition 23, if enacted, would freeze the caps and reduction measures from AB 32 until California's unemployment rate drops to 5.5% or below for four consecutive quarters—something that is unlikely to happen anytime soon, if at all. Right now, the state's unemployment rate is about 12%, and it has only been 5.5% or below for four consecutive quarters three times since 1980.

SOURCES: California Global Warming Solutions Act; Huffington Post; Proposition 23; San Jose Mercury News