In the end, the oil industry’s pressure was stronger than California’s public opinion in the Capitol. Two significant bills, SB350 and SB 32, were diluted and pulled, respectively, in view of lack of enough Democratic support in the Capitol.
First, Sen. Kevin de León’s SB350 had to sacrifice its goal of cutting oil and diesel use in half by 2030, although to this point it keeps its other targets: a 50% increase of power coming from renewable sources, and a similar increase in energy efficiency in buildings. Days later, it was Sen. Fran Pavley’s SB32 turn, which proposed expanding goals of reducing greenhouse gases causing global warming which were previously set by a law approved by former governor Schwarzenegger.
SB350 did not require reducing oil use, but it set goals so the California Air Resources Board could manage its polluting gas reduction programs. This lack of specificity, which precisely aimed to a realist flexibility, allowed the oil industry to launch a multimillion campaign to influence legislators. Western States Petroleum Association, through California Drivers Alliance, spent millions of dollars saying that SB350 would lead to fuel rationing, higher prices, and the creation of fines based on the drivers’ habits with the intention of discouraging oil use.
None of that is true. The legislators who read the project and voted against it should have known. Likewise, they should have known that, in July of this year, most Californians supported SB350. At least seven in 10 interviewed by the Policy Public Institute of California were in favor of reducing oil use, as well as other goals in the project.
There is no doubt that Californians see the environment and fighting global warming as a priority. Democratic legislators should work towards that goal, and if a project has problems, they should help it succeed instead of weakening and destroying it. Voters should remind that to the representatives who ask for their vote in the elections but only have ears for the oil industry when it’s time to legislate.