Leadership
Oil Lobby Compels California to Drop 50% Oil Cut

California, Gov. Jerry Brown and Senate Democrats abandoned a 50 percent cut in petroleum use by 2030 that was a focal point of the state’s climate change policy, following an intense campaign against the mandate by the oil industry, The New York Times reports.

The petroleum cut was meant to help reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, using 1990 emission levels as a baseline.

Senate Bill 350 —the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act — retains provisions that require California to generate half of its electricity from renewable sources and double the energy efficiency of buildings by 2030.

The bill has received support from major brands with a substantial carbon footprint in California, including Ben & Jerry’s, eBay, Gap, Levi Strauss, The North Face and Sungevity.

Opponents of the measure had warned that the 50 percent mandate would result in higher fuel and electricity costs. The oil industry, for example, claimed that it could lead to fuel rationing and bans on sport utility vehicles. They even went so far as to label the bill “the California Gas Restriction Act of 2015” in television advertisements and mailings, The New York Times reports.

However, the bill does not mention rationing or any other specific measures. The decision on how to carry out the proposed cuts would have been left to the state’s Air Resources Board.

The decision to trash the petroleum mandate diminishes California’s long-held role as an environmental leader on the forefront of the fight against climate change. The program was a showpiece for environmentalists around the country, where climate action has been slow to materialize on a national scale.

“It’s unfortunate that oil industry money spoke so loudly, but I believe the governor and legislative leaders did the right thing by preserving the authority of the California Air Resources Board to protect public health and reduce emissions,” Adrienne Alvord, California and western states director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement. “The Union of Concerned Scientists will continue to strongly support efforts that are succeeding and will continue to succeed to reduce demand for petroleum in transportation.”

Alvord said UCS would continue to support SB 350 as it contains a 50 percent renewables portfolio standard (RPS) and encourage California to pass this legislation “expeditiously.”

Gov. Brown said he remains confident that the state would reach its long-term goals, pointing to huge cuts in emissions achieved over the past decade, The New York Times reports.

Earlier this year, California became the US leader in renewable energy generation, with more than 5 percent of its annual utility-scale electricity generation from utility-scale solar power. The state has achieved this by promoting solar power through a series of state policies, including a RPS that requires electricity providers to obtain 33 percent of the power they sell from eligible renewable sources by 2020.

Gov. Brown conceded this battle’s victory to the oil industry, but said that he would use his executive powers to continue to force further reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

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