Fact-Checking the Oil Industry's Claims on AB 197 and SB 32

Despite the oil industry lobby spending another record amount to oppose, today’s passage of SB32 (Pavley) out of the California Assembly demonstrated continued commitment from the state to extend climate and clean energy policies beyond 2020.  A companion bill that is double-joined with SB32, AB197 (Garcia), is now heading back to the Assembly and is targeted at providing increased legislative oversight to the state agency in charge of implementing programs, while also prioritizing reductions in pollution from sources that all too often harm underserved communities and communities of color.

Legislators are now hearing even more loudly from the oil industry. But who's checking the oil industry and their “facts?” Here are four statistics that may surprise many.   

1.      California has well over two times more jobs in the clean energy economy than in the oil industry.

Assemblymember Gallagher (R, District 3) argued on the Assembly floor today that the oil and gas industry employs far more people than the clean, advanced energy industry (citing solar as an example). But the latest data from the Assemblymember’s own district shows otherwise, with nearly 5,000 direct jobs in the clean, advanced energy economy and less than 2,000 direct jobs in oil and gas.

Statewide, the facts on the ground are similar. The oil and gas industry directly employs 184,100 people in California in 2013 (latest year available), with the largest share of those jobs on the retail side at gas stations (32%). Advanced, clean energy jobs employed 411,655 people in California in 2013, with the majority of those jobs in energy efficiency. In 2015, advanced, clean energy jobs increased to 507,703 people.

California employment comparison

2.   California’s oil and gas industry has actually gained jobs since the adoption of California’s first climate and clean energy law (AB32).

The oil industry itselfwhich has cried wolf the loudesthas not suffered the massive shut-downs and closures as they claimed they would just two or three years ago. Based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, California’s oil and gas industry employment levels have stayed virtually constant the past five years and have actually grown since 2005, before climate legislation was first passed under AB32.

3.      The clean energy economy is growing and poised to add many more jobs.

By 2030, climate and clean energy policies are expected to generate an additional 350,000 to 430,000 jobs in renewable energy generation alone, based on a study by the University of California. In another study commissioned by Next10, the authors estimated nearly a million more jobs and $388 billion will be added to the state’s economy by 2050 through extending climate and clean energy programs to meet 2030 goals.

4.      California’s clean energy and climate programs are saving households money. In contrast, the oil industry made $10 billion in windfall profits the past year and a half.

Earlier this year, Consumers Union published a study that found that consumers are poised to save even more from the state’s clean transportation programs—up to $1,530 annually by 2030thanks to more efficient vehicles, smarter development, and clean fuels. Low-income Californians would have the largest savings from low-carbon policies as a percent of income, due to their exposure to fuel price volatility at the pump. UCLA, in a separate study, found that low-income Californians were seeing a positive financial impact from state climate programs through lower electricity and natural gas bills, thanks to the "climate credits" being received by families.

In contrast, a week ago I spoke at California’s Petroleum Markets Advisory Committee (PMAC), where the Committee members cited the 2015 explosion at the ExxonMobil, Torrance refinery resulting in a $10 billion in windfall profits for the industry as fuel prices skyrocketed, in addition to workers being injured and many in the local community taking shelter. That amounts to every household in California sending an extra $800 payment to the oil industry’s bottom-line. Despite this very real cost, the Committee cited the lack of any state resources to conduct analysis around how to protect Californians from excessive oil industry market power. They also cited the lack of authority for their Committee to require anything more than voluntary information from the oil industry.

The irony is that as legislators are now turning their attention to ensure oversight of the state agency implementing the climate program through AB197, there is little oversight on the oil industry’s claims, lobbying expenditures, and very real impacts on consumers.

Assemblymembers, in passing AB197, can now demonstrate they see beyond the oil industry's claims which just aren’t holding up to scrutiny.

About the Authors

Simon Mui

Deputy Director, Clean Vehicles & Fuels Group, Climate & Clean Energy Program

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