When California’s secretary of state released the third-quarter lobbying spending numbers late Friday, Big Oil yet again emerged as a real “leader.” The oil industry almost doubled its spending on lobbyists from the second to third quarters of 2014, paying the equivalent of more than $3,000 per hour to advance the oil industry’s agenda in Sacramento between July and the end of September.
This adds up to more than $70 million spent by the oil industry on Sacramento lobbyists since 2009.
Leading the pack in spending lobbying dollars is the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), an industry association that represents members such as ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and BP. WSPA is consistently the top spender on lobbyists in California, and in the last quarter Chevron, Phillips66, and Valero all also ranked in the top 10 spenders on lobbyists.
While the oil industry lobbies on many issues, pressuring lawmakers to delay or dismantle the state’s popular clean energy laws that are reducing California’s dependence on petroleum-based fuels (and Big Oil’s market share) has long been a priority.
The oil industry’s campaign to undermine California’s groundbreaking Global Warming Solutions Act, AB 32, has been going on for years, but the campaign reached new heights as the Legislature concluded its session at the end of August. Fortunately, lawmakers rejected last-ditch attempts to grant the oil industry a three-year delay or outright exemption from the scheduled January 2015 inclusion of transportation fuels under California’s economy-wide program to cap and steadily reduce climate pollution.
The cap-and-trade program is a key tool in reducing California’s harmful carbon pollution to 1990 levels by 2020 – less than six years away – under the state’s AB 32 clean energy law. The oil industry has had eight years – as much time as it took to land a man on the moon – to prepare for being held to the same standard as California’s other major emitters (which are already covered under the program) so there was no reason to delay. After all, the transportation fuels industry accounts for almost 40 percent of our climate pollution, the single-largest source in California.
And let’s not forget:
- Four in ten Californians, more than in any other state, live close enough to a freeway or busy road that they are at increased risk of asthma, cancer and other health hazards from vehicle pollution.
- As a result, nearly twice as many Californians die from the health impacts of vehicular pollution as from motor vehicle accidents.
- These harmful impacts disproportionately burden low-income communities and communities of color, who often live in areas with poorer air quality and closer to pollution sources.
As the lobbying figures indicate, the oil industry – the most profitable industry on earth – is still fighting hard and spending BIG to protect its interests, rather than innovating to produce – and profit from – cleaner energy sources.
Despite the millions spent by Big Oil to lobby our lawmakers, Californians have made it clear they want a clean energy future. Thanks to the portfolio of clean energy policies under AB 32 that are reducing consumer fuel costs, diversifying our fuel choices and avoiding billions in health costs, that’s where we’re headed.
We’re on the right path. And no amount of special interest money can change that. But we have to remain resolute to the finish line and reject Big Oil’s attempts to derail us, no matter how many roadblocks the opponents to our clean energy future try to erect.