Two of our nation's largest polluters, based in Texas, are funding an aggressive campaign to destroy California's precedent-setting Global Warming Solutions Act, also known as AB 32. The Texas oil companies, Valero and Tesoro, are footing the bill to the tune of millions of dollars. Their California oil refineries are among the ten worst polluters in the state. The oil billionaire Koch brothers are also dropping some serious money to pass Proposition 23, a ballot initiative aimed squarely at this important law. But before we talk about about the current crop of Texas energy billionaires trying to subvert the best emissions law in the country, let's cast our minds back to 2000 and 2001.
No one had ever been "friended" on Facebook. Only birds tweeted. Getting through the airport didn't involve a cavity search. Lady Gaga was just another kid in middle school. Suddenly, without warning or apparent reason, energy in California got so expensive that the state was nearly bankrupted and the Governor was driven out of office. California families paid a heavy price, people went without essentials to keep the power on, rolling blackouts and brownouts were common.
We now know that there was no energy crisis or shortage. Traders at Texas-based Enron manipulated the energy market in California to reap billions in profit. Employees of the company were caught on audio tape joking about how badly they had defrauded Californians:
Enron employee 1: "They're f*****g taking all the money back from you guys? All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?"
Enron employee 2: "Yeah, grandma Millie, man"
Enron employee 1: "Yeah, now she wants her f******g money back for all the power you've charged right up, jammed right up her a*****e for f******g $250 a megawatt hour."
Charming. California still hasn't recovered financially from this fraud. Enron is gone, collapsed under the weight of their own greed and corruption. But it is clear that the fossil fuel pushers from Texas don't want to see California go into rehab.
California Assembly Bill 32 was a hard won victory, making this attempt to overturn it all the more troubling. AB 32 was passed in 2006 and requires that greenhouse gas emissions be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020. The bill regulates greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).
The Environmental Protection Agency has affirmed California's right to control greenhouse gas emissions and AB 32 makes that right a reality. This law, if properly implemented, will make California a leader in creating green jobs that improve the quality of our air and water, and reduce the ever-increasing pace of climate change. Because California is the eighth largest economy in the world, the impact of requiring better emissions standards will have a positive ripple effect throughout the economy as businesses improve their technologies to comply. The scale of change beyond California is the very thing Valero and their pals are afraid of.
In oil companies' attempt to overturn AB 32 by passing Proposition 23, they are pressing the Orwellian argument that the law will worsen unemployment in California. Prop 23 proposes that the law could not take effect until certain minimum unemployment levels are achieved statewide. This is the Karl Rove tactic of attacking your opponent's strength. AB 32 is a job creator, so let's paint it as a job killer.
Fraud in electoral claims is as old as elections. Fraud from Texas-based energy companies is a demonstrated fact of life for Californians. The oil companies and their billionaire cheerleaders will bring down a rain of money to pass Proposition 23. Our ability to protect the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 depends entirely on getting out the truth and getting out the vote.