Today Earth Day is Family Day for Me

This morning on my way to work in San Francisco, I joined 50 other people on a street corner in Oakland, just around the corner from where both my mother and father grew up and down the street from where both my children were born. So it was a bit of old home week for me. As a fifth generation Californian I’ve always been proud of the way our state has been on the cutting edge of pragmatic and effective environmental policy, but its citizens are facing a dire threat on Earth Day, 2010:  an assault by Texas oil refiners on AB 32, the state’s clean energy law.

Valero Energy Corp. and a consortium of Texas-based refiners have pumped more than $2 million into a signature-gathering campaign to place an initiative on the November ballot that would delay or prevent full implementation of AB 32.  This landmark legislation is creating thousands of new jobs and stimulating new technologies in the emerging clean energy sector while simultaneously cutting emissions of greenhouse gases.

Valero’s campaign – cynically and inaccurately tagged the California Jobs Initiative -- is a bald-faced ploy to maximize petroleum industry profits by scotching the drive toward cleaner, greener fuels.  But Californians are not fooled:  they have responded to this stealth campaign by Oil Patch bigwigs with outrage.  Earth Day protests were held at Valero gas stations in Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.  And this is just the beginning.  Clean energy advocates will continue this fight to Election Day.

Make no mistake-- there is no bigger threat to economic growth, job creation and clean air than this effort by Texas oil companies to kill AB 32, our roadmap to a clean energy future. Californians know they can have both a thriving economy and a healthy environment. The protests we saw on Earth Day are telling the company they can’t sneak this ‘Dirty Energy Initiative’ through.  We’re ready and eager for battle – and when we get through with these carpet baggers, they’re going to wish they’d stayed in Texas and concentrated on their barbecue recipes.

According to a recent Field Poll, support for AB 32 remains strong, with 58 percent of residents backing the legislation. Many of the state’s major newspapers – including the San Jose Mercury News, the Sacramento Bee and the Santa Rosa Press Democrat – already have run editorials blasting the Valero initiative.   There’s a very good reason for this: Valero has a long and lamentable record of pursuing short-term profits over the public good.  The Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts deemed the firm one of the worst polluters in the United States, and in 2005 the company was hit with $711 million in fines by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Contrary to Valero’s invidious claims, AB 32 is a boon to California.  According to a recent University of California analysis, the legislation will create about 112,000 new jobs and generate $20 billion for the state’s economy.  Additionally, the bill sets the standard for the nation in reducing harmful carbon emissions and puts California at the vanguard of energy research and development. AB 32 points the way to the technology we’ll need to meet 21st Century economic and environmental challenges. Valero’s initiative does just the opposite, harkening to bankrupt technologies, shrinking job and energy sectors and a polluted planet.  We’re getting the word out—don’t sign this initiative. It’s a stalking horse for Big Oil and expensive, dirty energy.  If it does get on the ballot, don’t vote for it

*Photo credit: Natural Resources Defense Council