Texas: What Part of NO Don't You Understand?

The thermometer at the National Weather Service’s Los Angeles office hit 113 degrees on Monday – and then it broke.

This record-breaking heat conforms to a larger trend. A recent State of the Climate report, compiled by more than 300 scientists in 48 countries, concluded that “…global warming is undeniable.” The last 10 years have been the warmest on record. That decade beat the previous record holder:  the 1990s.

The implications of this phenomenon have not gone unnoticed by the leading newspapers in the state and nation. Virtually all of California’s major papers have published editorials in the last month condemning Proposition 23, the oil industry-sponsored initiative slated for the November ballot that would kill AB 32, California’s landmark clean energy bill.  The New York Times also weighed in with an editorial slamming the out-of-state financial supporters of Proposition 23.

Because AB 32 would create incentives for sustainable fuels and place reasonable limits on carbon emissions, it is being fought tooth and claw by Big Oil.  Three companies in particular -- Tesoro Corp. and Valero Corp from Texas, and Wichita-based Koch Industries – have contributed millions of dollars to put Proposition 23 on the November ballot.

Along with the New York Times, the papers opposing Proposition 23 include The Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, the Fresno Bee, the San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times, the Ventura County Star, the Los Angeles Daily News and the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

The tone emanating from the editorial boards has ranged from constrained contempt to outrage. The Sacramento Bee proclaimed in its headline that the initiative “…Deserves to Go Down in Disgrace,” noting in the text:

If Proposition 23 were to pass on Nov 2, it would be a major setback to state, national and international efforts to fight global warming. It would also send a positive signal to out-of-state companies who might want to reach into California and overturn all kinds of state laws --- ranging from consumer protection to insurance regulation.

The editorial then notes that AB 32 is in fact a blueprint “for growing jobs, encouraging investment in sustainable power and energy efficiency.”

The Fresno Bee editorial criticized Tesoro, Valero and Koch for “…finding it cheaper to finance an initiative to block the law than to run cleaner operations,” adding that Valero, Tesoro, and Koch Industries “…are the major forces behind a misleading effort to convince voters that AB 32 is harming the state's economy and is a threat to economic recovery.”

The New York Times notes that Charles and David Koch, the owners of Koch Industries,

…have argued that (AB 32) will lead to higher energy costs and job losses, arguments that resonate with many voters in a state with a 12.4 percent unemployment rate. But this overlooks the enormous increase in investments in clean energy technologies – and the jobs associated with them – since the law passed…Overturning AB 32 would be another setback in the effort to fight climate change…The Kochs and their allies are wrong about the science, which shows that man-made emissions are largely responsible for global warming, and wrong about the economics.

The San Francisco Chronicle pounded the duplicitous language in Proposition 23, and asks: 

Why would California want to turn back the clock on a matter of such environmental urgency and potential economic benefit to homegrown companies that are positioning themselves to lead the way on green technology?  Follow the money.

The Los Angeles Times highlighted California’s leadership and that we should forge ahead with AB 32 so others will follow:

Since the late 1960s, California has led the nation in environmental regulation — and where California leads, other states and Congress almost invariably follow. That's the real reason the likes of Valero and Tesoro are so afraid of AB 32: They know it will spread. And it's why Californians must not let them succeed. With Congress currently paralyzed on climate legislation, California is the best hope for a cleaner future in the United States. Vote no on Proposition 23.

Leading news outlets get it – they understand that Proposition 23 is deceptive and has nothing to do with preserving jobs – that it will, in fact cripple the most vibrant sector in California’s economy, taking thousands of jobs in the process.  Now it’s up to the voters to tell Big Oil to keep their greasy mitts off California’s energy policies.

I’d like to close with the coda to the New York Times editorial, which sums up the stakes succinctly:

Who wins if this law (AB32) is repudiated? The Koch Brothers, maybe, but the biggest winners will be the Chinese, who are already moving briskly ahead in the clean technology race.  And the losers?  The people of California, surely.  But the biggest loser will be the planet.