Tag Archives: alternative energy

EXPOSED: Texas Big Oil Funding Petition to Kill California’s Anti-Pollution Legislation

Stealthily and without fanfare, a petition has been launched to get a measure on the November ballot suspending AB 32, California’s landmark legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions and spur green job growth. So who is funding the signature drive? None other than San Antonio-based oil refiners Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp. — the #7 and #8 biggest polluters in California. From the LA Times:

Two Texas-based refinery giants have pledged as much as $2 million to fund signature gathering for a ballot initiative to suspend California’s landmark global warming law [AB 32], according to Sacramento sources.

The companies, Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp., own refineries in California that would be forced under the law to slash emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

But neither Valero or Tesoro is owning up to it.

A Tesoro spokesman did not respond to inquiries. But the company’s website invites visitors to lobby Congress to ensure “fair” climate legislation and fight any effort by the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Bill Day, a Valero spokesman, declined to confirm or deny the company’s involvement, saying that “any contributions would come out in normal disclosures” under California’s campaign laws.

And neither is Dan Logue (R-Marysville), one of the initiative’s main sponsors. From NYTimes:

Dan Logue, the Republican assemblyman behind the suspension, also refused to discuss where funds had originated.

So forget about the astroturf groups claiming the movement to kill AB 32 is a bunch of small local businesses worried about their survival in a tough economy. The mask is off the anti-AB 32 movement, and behind it is exactly what we thought we would find: big oil, big pollution, big corporations and the corporatist Republicans who love them. That’s why Logue, Valero and Tesoro refuse to admit where the money for the ballot initiative is coming from, even if it means possibly violating California Fair Political Practices Committee regulations. The fact that Texas Big Oil is funding an initiative to keep California’s air dirty and kill its burgeoning green economy is a PR nightmare.

So let’s have no more illusions about what the move to kill AB 32 is all about.

Killing AB 32 is not about job creation or lowering unemployment. Valero and Tesoro don’t care about creating jobs or lowering unemployment in a state over 1,000 miles away from them since that won’t increase their profits. If they did care about job creation, they would be supporting AB 32 since California’s clean/green economy is creating jobs at a rate 2.5 times faster than the rest of the economy while attracting billions in venture capital investment, including an announcement this week that Kyocera will be opening a plant in San Diego to manufacture solar modules. Besides, the Varshney/Tootelian report that AB 32 opponents often cite to prove that AB 32 will kill jobs and hurt the economy has been exposed by numerous economists, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the California Budget Project as being fatally, almost cartoonishly flawed, with one pair of economists calling it “one of the worst examples of schlock science we’ve ever seen.” Even Sanjay Varshney, one of the report’s co-authors, admitted that the report is “not exhaustive” and now seems to be backing away from its conclusions.

The move to kill AB 32 is about even more astronomical profits for Big Oil, regardless of whom or what it harms. Valero and Tesoro don’t care that hundreds of Californians die every year from respiratory illnesses aggravated by pollution, or that the adverse health effects of pollution disproportionately fall on minorities. They don’t care that the top four most polluted cities in the country are in California or that Californians breath some of the dirtiest air in America, with 95% of Californians living in areas with unhealthy air.

In fact, Valero and Tesoro want California’s air to become even more dirty and dangerous because they profit from pollution. Instead of being ethical and responsible and cleaning up their own mess, they can make even more by “socializing” and externalizing the cost of pollution — making Californians pay for it in the form of taxpayer-funded environmental cleanups, increased medical bills and lost work days stemming from pollution-related illness, and premature death. Tesoro claims it wants “fair” climate legislation when the most “fair” thing they could do is to clean up their own pollution instead of making others deal with it. And while they adamantly oppose any legislation that puts a price on carbon, the truth is that Valero and Tesoro know that carbon already has a price — the extra profits they make by not cleaning up the carbon pollution they generate.

Call Valero at (210) 345-2000 and/or email Tesoro and tell them what you think of what they’re doing. They’ll try to redirect you to a PR firm, but be insistent. And if anything, tell them that you and all of your friends will never, ever buy their gas again.

We’ve already had out-of-state interests stick their nose in to tell Californians who we can marry. Let’s make sure out-of-state Big Oil doesn’t dictate what kind of air we’re forced breath.

A Green Industrial Revolution for a Golden State

NOTE: These are my prepared remarks for today’s keynote address as the Scripps Seaside Forum, sponsored by the Sustainability Alliance of Southern California, Heartland Foundation-United Green and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

It’s great to be at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, one of our country’s most important research facilities. The work of this institute has led the way in understanding climate change, the effect of the warming oceans and how we can adapt to the inevitable changes in our environment.  

I’m here today to talk to you about the next industrial revolution. The world’s economies are fueled by carbon based fuels that have polluted our atmosphere and set up a warming climate. Now when I talk about the next revolution, I don’t mean the coal-and-oil fueled economy of yesteryear. The irrefutable science of climate change requires that we take a different path, and with sound investments in renewable energy, green technology, and education, we can create a new green industrial revolution that will put countless thousands of our residents back to work.  

President Obama understands what’s at stake. Under his stimulus package, California is expected to receive more than $1.5 billion for job-creating alternative energy, energy efficiency, energy conservation, and other energy and climate related efforts. Included in this estimate, the U.S. Treasury and Energy Departments announced that at least $3 billion in competitive grants will be distributed nationwide to support an estimated 5,000 biomass, solar, wind, and other renewable energy projects. Note to Secretary Chu: consider using some of the $3 billion as a loan guarantee, thereby expanding the use of the funds.

Incentives for renewable energy generation and installation are also fueling the growth in green jobs. In just the first four months of 2009, solar installations nearly tripled compared to the year prior. Homeowners, businesses, and government all benefit from the California Solar Initiative (CSI), which provides incentives that reduce the total cost of installed systems by an average of 20 percent. Signed into law in 2006, the CSI aims to install 3,000 MW of new solar power by offering $3 billion in solar rebates over 10 years. Additionally, businesses and homeowners qualify for a federal investment tax credit of 30 percent on renewable energy systems. According to the California Community Colleges Centers of Excellence, the solar industry in California is on pace to produce 40,000 new jobs by 2016.

More over the flip…

We are seeing real progress. Today’s global economic crisis can be combated with a strong commitment to green job growth. Unemployed construction workers with minimal retraining will begin installing solar panels and wind turbines. Today’s college engineering students will be the engineers of the future, designing new renewable power plants. Scientists will find additional resources and demand to research cutting edge renewable energies like tidal, algae, or fusion power. In a very real sense, the future is now.

So where do we go from here? First and foremost, we must recommit resources to education at all levels. The nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California recently found that if current trends continue, California will have one million college graduates fewer than required to keep pace with our economy’s potential growth. As the PPIC explains, “Cuts in education funding work against the state’s long term interests. […] Unless decisions and actions are taken soon to improve educational outcomes for Californians, the state’s future economy and the prosperity of its residents will be compromised.”

California’s future business climate requires a well-educated workforce, yet we are near the bottom in per pupil K-12 spending. When we cut classes, remove extracurricular enrichment, and overstuff classrooms, we deprive our students of the tools they require to succeed in a competitive global economy. From biotechnology to Internet technology, much of California’s economic prosperity depends on a scientifically literate population, yet we are at risk of leaving a generation behind. We can do better.

Higher education is also at risk. I used to say California higher education is on a slow road to starvation, but the pace seems to be quickening with every passing year. Adjusted for inflation, student fees have more than doubled at the California State University and University of California, and more than tripled at our community colleges. In 1980, 17 percent of the state budget went to higher education. This year, higher education only received 10 percent. The result: furloughs of professors and staff, 40,000 qualified students will not enter the CSU system, and more than 2,000 will not enter the UC system. These are the engineers, technicians, teachers, and nurses that we need to grow our economy. Bottom line: the best investment is education. It has a $4.31 return for every dollar we spend. We must reinvest in education, and that is why I support an oil severance charge that would generate more than $1 billion yearly for higher education.

We are at the forefront of a green industrial revolution, and how we respond to this opportunity determines our state’s future. California’s success was based on a robust, entrepreneurial private sector and prudent state investments. Job growth, environmental sustainability, and quality affordable education are interconnected like never before. The federal government is providing us with some of the tools we require to jumpstart our economy. Let’s take the baton and make California the Golden State once again.

John Garamendi is California’s Lieutenant Governor, chair of the California Commission for Economic Development, a University of California Regent, and a California State University Trustee. As a State Legislator, he authored California’s first alternative energy tax incentive.

Is Phony Tony Strickland Really a Phony?

Tim Herdt over at the VC Star’s 95 Percent Accurate* is a veritable fountain of information today.  This time he brings us news about our favorite new state senator, “Phony” Tony Strickland.  As readers may recall, Tony Strickland ran a bogus campaign claiming to be an alternative energy entrepreneur though his alternative energy company has yet to secure a contract, and his voting record has been a boon to oil companies and other polluting industries who richly rewarded him with a major infusion of campaign contributions.

But according to Tim Herdt, Strickland may actually be persuaded to honor at least a few of his environmental campaign promises, in order to lend real credence to what had been essentially dishonest fabrications concerning his views on environmental issues based on his record:

New Ventura County Sen. Tony Strickland, who ran this fall as a “renewable energy businessman” promising to promote the development of alternative energy, has taken the first step to show that he meant what he said.

Strickland told me last month that he does not agree with the provision in his fellow legislative Republicans’ budget proposal that calls for a delay in implementing California’s landmark global warming law. That regulations to implement that law, AB 32, call for aggressive steps to promote alternative energy, including a requirement that utilities purchase a third of their electrical power from renewable sources such as solar and wind energy.

Furthermore, Strickland said he intends to soon introduce a package of clean-energy legislation.

Sounds good, but several caveats spring to mind:

1) Promises made by Strickland to a media figure like Herdt may well turn out to be as unreliable as most of the other claims Phony Tony has made over the years.

2) His promises to oppose his fellow Republicans on environmental issues in the Senate mean little if he knows that said environmental initiatives will be blockaded by his other Republican allies.  If Strickland knows that these bills and addenda will be blocked by others, his support means little; in fact, his “support” would only serve to give him cover while still maintaining his preferred anti-environmental policy aims.  We will know Strickland is serious if he makes real attempts to persuade his Republican allies to alter their votes.

3) Strickland’s promise to introduce a “package of clean-energy legislation” is worse than meaningless if his bill is merely a watered-down version of a stronger Democratic bill.  Claiming to support popular Democratic policies by offering a weaker version of a Democratic bill is a tried and true Republican tactic.

4) Supporting clean energy bills that provide aid for renewable energy development mean little if they do not come at the expense of the current establishment of corporate polluters.  It is easy for a Republican to recommend spending money or creating incentives on windmills or solar panels; it is far harder to take the just as necessary steps of disincentivizing the use of pollutants.

5) California is in a major budget crunch, and has numerous other problems besides.  Even if Strickland has come to a true conversion on energy issues (which has yet to be seen), his retrograde Republican views on all other aspects of state business make him a bad fit for the district, and unacceptable for California as it struggles to regain its footing after the fiasco of Enron’s energy deregulation, Schwarzenegger’s mismanagement of the state at the Executive level, and the intransigence of the extremist Republicans in the statehouse.

In any case, the fact that Strickland is at least paying lip service–phony or no–to support of alternative energy is a small victory for progressive causes in itself.

Cross-posted at Ventura County Democrats

CA-04: Launching a New Energy Economy–Sign the Petition

(Go sign that petition to put the government’s purchasing power behind renewable energy! And you can find Charlie on the Calitics ActBlue page. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)


Hey everyone! I just wanted to take some time to update you on what’s happening out here in CA 04.  

As you may know, Charlie Brown has just released his energy plan, and launched a petition  to get the federal government (also the world’s largest energy consumer) to put its purchasing power behind alternative energy.

More below the flip.

-Neil Pople

Charlie Brown for Congress

One of the things that drove me to enter politics was frustration with a status quo that’s been pushing our nation further and further off course.

The fact is that many of the problems we’re facing today-on healthcare, education, immigration, veterans aftercare, and energy–aren’t new, and far too many are getting worse because of gridlock in Washington.  

Ultimately, partisan politics has not resolved the economic hardships confronting families across our nation, and it won’t alleviate the concerns I hear from people of every political persuasion in this campaign.      

It’s why we’ve decided not to wait to make a difference by donating 5% of the funds we raise to local veterans service providers, and asking you to help us identify and choose the beneficiaries.

It’s also why just this past week, we put forward a comprehensive strategy to help lower gas prices, jump start our economy, and move America towards Energy Independence.  




Our plan is not a sound-byte driven band aid.  It includes short term actions designed to give families relief at the pump, increase domestic supply of traditional fuels, and show OPEC that America is serious about changing the way we power our nation.  Ultimately, facts are stubborn things and much as we’d like to, we simply cannot drill our way out of this problem.

That’s why I’m calling for the world’s largest energy consumer-the U.S. Government-to lead by example and spend the $14.5 billion it already devotes to energy costs each year on domestic alternatives over the next seven years.

And I’m asking you to stand with me.


With energy costs hurting families and our economy, it is unconscionable to think that we import more foreign oil and refined gasoline today than we did before 9/11.  It is equally troubling to see our government spending our hard earned tax dollars lining the pockets of special interests and foreign governments, when it could be invested in a new energy economy that creates thousands of new jobs here in America.

Innovation has always been the hallmark of our nation.  And I believe it is the key to seizing our single greatest economic opportunity since the industrial revolution if we are prepared to act.


One thing you learn over 26 years in the military is that solving problems is not about being a Democrat or a Republican.  It’s about the willingness to take action.

From county fairs, to house parties, phone banks, and precinct walks, we are doing just that, and taking our message of change to the streets of district four.  

So with 96 days left until election day, we are not going to let up an inch.  The stakes are simply too high.  And there are many ways you can help at this critical time:

Volunteer to Walk a Precinct or Phone Bank


Write a Letter to The Editor

I am grateful for your continued support, and look forward to seeing you on the campaign trail very soon.


Charlie Brown, Lt. Col. USAF Ret.

P.S.  Stand with us and stand for Energy Independence!  Read the plan and sign the petition to put our tax dollars at work to jumpstart a new energy economy for America!

A Comprehensive Plan For Energy Independence And Lowering Gas Prices

By:  Charlie Brown, Lt. Col. USAF Ret., 7/22/08


For years politicians have passed the buck on hard choices we needed to make about our energy future—-and today, we are all paying the price.

For years, they refused to raise fuel economy standards because the special interests were too strong. Now, American car companies that were once the hallmark of American innovation are on the verge of going out of business.  General Motors’ stock recently closed at its lowest price since 1954.


For years, instead of investing in a clean energy future, career politicians gave tax breaks to oil companies.  Today, those same companies are reaping record profits, while we’re paying $4.00 – $5.00 for a gallon of gasoline.  Worst of all, we are importing more oil from the same countries that serve as fertile recruitment ground for Al Qaeda today, than we did on 9/11.

The politicians got it wrong-way wrong.

Any patriotic American would drill for oil on the White House lawn if it would solve our energy problems.  But the hard truth is that we can’t drill our way out of this problem.

Nearly 80% of the land that is currently being leased by oil companies for drilling in the U.S. is not being used for this purpose. All of the world’s existing drill ships are booked solid for the next five years. The cost of new ships, most of which are made in Asia, has increased from $100 million per ship to almost $500 million per ship.

Workers with the specialized skills needed to expand domestic exploration are in short supply. Industry experts estimate it will take between 7,000 – 8,000 new workers just to fill the jobs on all the rigs already coming on line in the next two years.

Further complicating matters, we have not built a new refinery in the U.S. since 1976 and continue to import more and more refined gas.  Our refining capacity in 2020 will be only 100,000 more barrels per day than it was in 1981.  What good is it to produce more crude oil if we can’t refine it into gasoline?


The Bush Energy Department has said even if ANWR turned up massive amounts of crude, the net affect on U.S. Gas Prices would be $.01. In addition, a 2007 Department of Energy study found that access to coastal energy deposits would not add to domestic crude oil and natural gas production before 2030 and that the impact on prices would be “insignificant.”

The bottom line is that there is no easy solution that will provide immediate relief to our families from rising energy costs. The facts are clear. We use 25% of the world’s produced oil but hold only 3% of the world’s reserves.

And while this might all seem like bad news, there is a silver lining.

The current energy crisis provides us with the single greatest economic opportunity this country has seen since the industrial revolution if we are prepared to act.  If we are prepared to overcome this challenge the way we have so many before—with a comprehensive solution that increases domestic energy supply, puts speculators and OPEC countries on notice that America is serious about energy independence, and invests in good old fashioned American innovation and know how.

That’s why I am calling for a $100 billion, 7 year “Apollo” project to move the U.S. Government towards energy independence, and to jump-start the entire renewable energy market and economy in America.

The U.S. Government is the largest landholder and consumer of energy in the world. It holds more than 1.2 million property assets and spends over $14.5 billion per year on energy consumption.

Every year the Federal Government buys over 60,000 automobiles – not including military vehicles – and maintains over 3.3 billion square feet of office space. Yet, the Federal Government must obtain only 7.5% of its electrical energy from renewable sources by 2013 and it’s only mandated to reduce fuel consumption by 2% annually.


An Apollo program like I am proposing needn’t involve any new government spending.  Simply, we need to put the $14.5 billion worth of purchasing power that the world’s largest energy consumer is already spending on oil behind renewable and alternative energy—including wind, solar, bio-fuels, hydrogen, and nuclear power. The technologies already exist to free our nation from its economically unhealthy dependence on foreign oil, but the challenge is creating enough economies of scale to make renewable energy competitively priced.

But beyond the short term affect on oil prices for everyday consumers, America’s $100 billion Apollo Program will also help drive down the price of existing technologies like solar and wind power to the point that the other sectors of the economy would follow.  It’s important to remember that federal investment in technology has already served as the launching pad for many green technologies, including photovoltaic cells that were developed in their current form by the US space program.

We’ve even seen the military already moving in the direction of alternative fuels.  Last year, the Air Force announced plans to certify its entire fleet of bombers, fighters, transports and other aircraft to run on alternative fuels by 2011.  The Air Force has also installed the North America’s largest array of Solar Panels at Nellis Air Force Base.

And just recently, T. Boone Pickens, a Texas oil billionaire and conservative Republican – who is no preacher for Global Warming – announced plans to build the world’s largest wind farm in Texas in an attempt to produce 20% of America’s energy needs from wind power.  Pickens has said publicly that he’s not in this because he’s “going green,” he’s in it because he sees the limitless economic opportunities of alternative energy.  In his announcement, Pickens summed up the case, “Our dependence on imported oil is killing our economy. It is the single biggest problem facing America today. We are going to have to do something different in America. You can’t keep paying out $600 billion a year for oil.”


Finally, announcing that the United States is moving federal investment away from foreign oil would send a powerful message to OPEC regarding America’s willingness to move in a new energy direction—causing oil prices to decline in response to an anticipated drop in demand from the world’s largest energy consumer.


This phenomenon is not without precedent.  Just last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernake’s comments about dropping demand from U.S. consumers due to limited purchasing power yielded a $6 dollar drop in the price of oil.  Similarly, President George H.W. Bush’s announcement that America was tapping its Strategic Petroleum Reserve prior to the first Gulf War yielded a 33% drop in oil prices.


Ultimately, energy independence is not a Democrat or Republican issue – it’s an American issue. It’s about our willingness to finally solve a problem that threatens our economy and our security, while creating good, high-paying jobs for our children, restoring the competitive edge of American businesses, and the purchasing power of American consumers.

The Brown 6 Point Comprehensive Energy Plan:

1. A $100 billion “Apollo” project to move the Federal Government towards energy independence in the next seven years, jump-start the entire renewable energy market and economy in America, and to demonstrate to Oil Speculators and OPEC nations alike that America is committed to moving in a new energy direction.

2. The Federal Government should immediately open the strategic petroleum reserves to increase the supply of oil on the market and provide relief for American families from skyrocketing gas prices.

3. Build additional refineries to increase America’s capacity to produce gasoline, and to reduce our dependence on imported gasoline.

4. Drill on the 80% of federal land that is leased for drilling but currently not being used as a means of further increasing traditional energy supply here in America.

5. Close tax loopholes for oil companies and use that $18 billion to increase and make permanent tax incentives for research and development in renewable energy so companies can have the financial incentive and certainty to plan and undertake the advanced research that will drive our new energy economy.

6. Increase the federal tax credit for consumers, business or personal, for investment in renewable energy products (such as solar panels for home energy or hybrid vehicles) to $5,000— encouraging broad public investment in America’s energy independence.

Friday Odds And Ends

As we head into e-board (and await Brian’s updates), here’s a few things I’ve noticed around the Web-o-sphere:

• It’s a few days old, but I should mention that AB583, Loni Hancock’s Clean Money bill for California elections, was amended.  The latest is that it will be placed on the June 2010 ballot to enact a pilot program that would provide voluntary public financing in the 2014 Secretary of State’s race.  The original plan was to make the 2010 Governor’s race clean money, along with a selected Assembly and Senate race.  While shifting this to the lower-cost Secretary of State’s race increases chances of passage, it basically puts off any chance at clean money for another four years.  So it’s bittersweet, to me.

• This Alex Kozinski situation has gotten a lot of noise on political blogs – I even linked it up in quick hits.  Kozinski, the chief judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, was presumably caught with pornographic materials he stored on a public website, and now he’s offering himself up for investigation.  But the truth might be more sinister.  As Lawrence Lessig explains, Kozinski may have been the victim of a smear campaign by a lone nut who accessed material that was private but unsecure.  Worth a read.

• At the moment there are ten initiatives which have qualified for the November ballot; the latest would float $5 billion in bonds to subsidize purchases of clean-energy vehicles and research into renewables.  I’m a bit worried that such a long ballot with an what will probably be record turnout is going to bring lots and lots of low-information voters to the polls making decisions on the state’s future armed with little in the way of facts.  In other words, just another California election.

• On Tuesday, all couples in the state will be permitted to marry regardless of gender.  In anticipation, the New York Times ran an interesting article about marriage and gender relationships.  Very interesting stuff.

• Fabian Nuñez endorsed Kevin Johnson in his runoff race for Sacramento Mayor.  That race will happen in November.  No word on Johnson’s position on the allegations that refs gave the 2002 Western Conference Finals to the Lakers over the Kings, which may be a salient issue in Sac-town.

An interesting take on wind energy in CA

this comes from DailyKos blogger davidwalters.  It’s a diary on the ISO’s “Operations Preparedness Assessment” report.  It’s an interesting take on the limitations on the viability of wind energy to power our state–essentially concluding that wind energy does not have the ability to power all of our electrical needs, and advocates for nuclear energy.

Is it time to try to combat global warming by going nuclear?  Might seem so if 100% renewables can’t quite cut the infrastructure mustard just yet.

Tomorrow – Toward A New Energy Future

As long as we’re talking about what we’re all doing this weekend, I will be your intrepid reporter tomorrow, live from the Wadsworth Theater in Los Angeles at the Presidential Forum on Global Warming and Our Energy Future, sponsored by the California League of Conservation Voters, the enviro website Grist and PRI’s “Living On Earth” radio program.  Grist will have a live webcast of the forum tomorrow at 2:00pm PT.  You can find it here.  I’m expecting to liveblog the event at Calitics as well.

Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich are scheduled to attend, and speak for a half-hour on the environmental and energy proposals they would support as President.  The good news is that practically all of our Democratic candidates, even the ones who aren’t attending, have put out strong policies on fighting global warming and expanding renewable energy, from Chris Dodd’s corporate carbon tax to Bill Richardson’s ambitious CAFE standard porposal (50MPG) to Barack Obama’s 100% auction for a cap-and-trade system, where polluters would have to buy their carbon credits and not be given them.  Clinton and Edwards have also put out bold proposals in this arena, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about them tomorrow.

One thing you all can do TODAY is take action on the imminent federal energy bill.  There are three planks that everyone would like to see in it; a federal renewable energy standard that would mandate a healthy percentage of all electricity come from renewables like solar and wind; tax incentives for renewable energy, both for corporations AND for individuals who put solar panels on their house (this would be vital is California is to reach its One Million Solar Roofs Initiative), and a major increase in CAFE standards.  I believe that the first two would be signed by the President; he signed similiar legislation as the governor of Texas, and now Texas has MORE wind power than California.  Environment California is asking people to email Speaker Pelosi today and ask her to stand strong on the federal energy bill.

UPDATE: This ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is a positive step, requiring the Bush Administration to force SUVs and light trucks to meet the already-meager federal CAFE standards.  This would close a loophole the automakers have been using for a while.

“I believe that there is market manipulation at the refinery level”

That was Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez today at an event in downtown Los Angeles, in front of a Chevron station (that was selling gas for a low low $3.49, I think the advance man could’ve found stations 30-40 cents higher without too much trouble), as he announced with Assemblymen Mike Davis, Mike Feuer and Mike Eng a series of bills to combat rising gas prices and the artificial depression of refinery supply.  The bills will seek to oversee refinery maintenance, expand regulatory authority, and deal with the “hot fuel” issue.  The Speaker said that “During the electricity crisis a few years ago, California adopted similar measures to keep energy companies from using these convenient (refinery) shutdowns to amp up their profits, and today we’re going to make sure oil companies can’t use Enron-like tactics on California consumers.”

This is an object lesson in why now was the exact wrong time for the CDP to accept $50,000 from the prime progenitor of those Enron-style tactics.  And it actually came up in the press conference.  A full report on the flip, with audio to come.

Nunez referenced a Wall Street Journal article (behind the wall, sadly) that detailed how refineries are cashing in on high gas prices by artificially lowering their supply through various methods, particularly shutdowns.  The three bills work out this way:

1) new oversight committee: Nunez and Eng’s bill would create the California Petroleum Refinery Standards Committee, made up of the Attorney General, the State Controller and a couple political appointees, which would develop standards for maintenance and operations at California refineries, would look into shutdowns and would increase mandatory reporting from oil companies regarding them, would take audits and inspections, and would ensure compliance.  Penalties for not complying to these standards, would be “very stiff” and would be considered felonies, not misdemeanors.

2) “Hot fuels”: temperature varies in fuel, and it impacts the weight of gasoline, which since it’s sold by the gallon impacts the price.  The suspicion is that oil companies are manipulating temperature variations to give the consumer less for its money.  Assemblyman Mike Davis’ bill would seek a comprehensive study, cost-benefit analysis, and recommendations on what the national standard for gasoline temperature should be.  Right now it’s 60 degrees; the concern is that the number should be higher.

3) Petroleum Industry Information Reporting Act: oil companies are not releasing enough data to determine properly the efficacy of inventory levels and profit margins.  Assemblyman Mike Feuer’s bill would mandate monthly financial reports on oil supply, demand, and price issues.  It would also allow that information to be shared with the Attorney General and the Board of Equalization.

These appear to be decent bills that correctly address the issue of artificial refinery supply.  However, in the question-and-answer session that followed, there was an example of why it is not smart to play both sides of this fence.

The fact that the backdrop of the press conference was a Chevron statement is telling; after all, they own 25% of the refineries in the state, and they are getting rich off the high gas prices being made by their actions at those refineries.  The VERY FIRST QUESTION offered to Speaker Nunez was about his trip to South America paid for in part by Chevron.  Nunez replied that the trip was “insignificant,” that the trip was taken to learn more about alternative fuels in South America, that he stands for issues that are important to Democrats, and that he resented any attempt to question his ethics.  And right after the presser was over, during a sort of press gaggle, he told the radio reporter who asked that question that is was either a “cheap shot” or a “chicken shit” question (I wasn’t quite close enough to fully make it out).  The reporter replied that the information was out there and she was just giving the Speaker a chance to respond.

Clearly that’s a fair question.  And clearly it’s fair to ask whether, at a time where the Speaker of the Assembly is accusing Chevron of market manipulation and of engaging in “Enron-like tactics,” it’s the best time for the CDP to be taking a $50,000 contribution from that same corporation.  Now more than ever, the message should be united, and the perception here is quite confusing, and more hurtful than the money is helpful.  I appreciate these efforts to stop market manipulation, but I do not appreciate giving the opposition another arrow in their quiver through the appearance of impropriety of this donation.  I renew and strengthen my call for the Party to return the money and work in more innovative ways to fundraise and grow the party.

CDP: Please Give Chevron Back Their Money

(also available in blue)

I am fairly surprised that more has not been made in the blogosphere of the unwelcome news that Chevron is doing everything it can to buy off the California Democratic Party and some of its top legislators.  Outside of this small item in The Oil Drum, pretty much nobody has said a word about the fact that the CDP accepted a $50,000 check from a company that is attempting to artificially depress capacity and manipulate the energy market in a way that is shockingly similar to how Enron made themselves a fortune during the 2000-2001 energy crisis.  You can read the details here.

As a delegate to this party, I feel personally tainted by this donation.  I feel like there is a concerted effort to buy my silence.  It will not work, and I want to outline why I am respectfully asking this party, of which I am a member and to which I pay dues, to return the money.

I don’t think I have to go into how Chevron controls the oil market in California by owning most of the refineries, and that in another era that would rightly be called a trust.  I don’t need to discuss their record profits or their expenditures of $44 million to defeat ballot propositions like Prop. 87 and Prop. 89 last year, or their consistently greedy profit-taking at a time of record gas prices throughout the state, or how they refuse to increase refining capacity to keep that profit artificially high.  And I don’t need to explain how corporations aren’t in the business of charity, and that every expenditure they make has a stated outcome, whether for public relations purposes or to engender favorable legislation or just to keep government off their backs while they continue to rake in billions.  What I can talk about is the poverty of imagination that leads the CDP to take a gift like this.

What bothers me most about taking a fat corporate donation like this, from the very interest group you fought tooth and nail against on Prop. 87 just 6 months ago, is how LAZY it is.  There are an unlimited amount of ways to raise $50,000 that not only show no appearance of impropriety or corporate favoritism, but bring people into the process and grow the party, which are the key metrics for politics in the 21st century.  If you really needed $50,000 in a state of 37 million people, how about this: ask 50,000 to give a dollar to specifically ensure that the CDP won’t be beholden to big corporate money.  You can hold dollar parties and write about how giving citizens a stake brings them closer to the party.  And in return for that dollar, you could give people prominent space on the CDP website to upload a minute of video about what problems facing California most affect them.  Then, once the money is collected, PUBLICLY REBUFF Chevron by telling them that their donation has been paid by the people.  Not only would you be seen as populist folk heroes, you would be investing in the party by allowing 50,000 Calfornians get a share and a stake.  That’s called people power.  The new metrics for the Presidential campaigns, for example, are not just money but numbers of donors, because that shows a broad base of support.  A party that gets rich off fat $50,000 checks is a mile wide and an inch deep.  We already have a party like that in California.  It’s called the Republican Party.  And I expect them and their leaders to take hundreds of thousands from the oil industry, as Arnold has.

If that corporate money were even drilled in to infrastructure and party building, that would be something.  But typically, it’s not.  And the party that continues on a traditional model of collecting big corporate checks and running big broadcast ads will be obsolete in a new media environment.  Stoller:

We need to figure out new metrics for receiving party support aside from money and polling.  Perhaps opt-in email addresses acquired?  Friends on MySpace?  Newly registered voters (I like this one)?  Chatter across blogs using sites such as Blogpulse?

I’m not sure, but the whole landscape of politics is shifting.  It’s like an entirely new grammar is emerging, but we’re not there yet.

A “dollar party” strategy, that could spread virally through social networking sites (is the CDP even on MySpace or Facebook?), that would bind more people to the party in a small way and set up a core of activists for GOTV, that would allow a press release that says “50,000 donors!” instead of hiding the fact that one polluting Big Oil ripoff artist gave you 50,000 dollars… would simply be a forward-thinking way to grow the party and gather attention.

I’m sure that there are a host of conciliators and “my-party-right-or-wrong” types that have a problem with me sharing even a scintilla of disagreement with the state party (there’s another guy that believes in the silencing of any alternative voices, he resides at 1600 Penn. Ave, Wash, DC, 20500).  First of all, I would have them take a look at the rise of DTS voters and the lack of success in joining the progressive wave in 2006 and ask them where all that brushing aside criticism has gotten them.  But the second thing I would ask them is, why are you a Democrat?  What do you believe, if anything?  And how do you square that belief with the fact that one of the companies most committed to stopping any progress on global warming or reducing dependence on foreign oil just handed you – you! – a wad of money in order to shut you up?

The Speaker’s Office claims that these donations won’t impact Democrats’ ability to take a hard look at what Chevron is attempting to do on refining capacity, and that “tough” legislation is forthcoming.  I would hope so.  I cannot impact what individual candidates receive in gifts; at least, not until election season.  I can have an impact when it’s my party.  I’m a delegate and a member in good standing.  I know for a fact that members of the Party leadership read this site.  I’m asking those in charge at the CDP, nicely, to give back the Chevron money.  I want to work on innovative fundraising solutions that can simultaneously fund the important work of the party and bring it closer to the people whom it serves.  But like any addiction, the first step is admitting you have a problem.

Take Action on Climate Change This Weekend!

Desertification and malaria may rise in Africa because of it. India’s food and water supplies may vanish because of it. The entire ecosystem, as well as the basic livelihood, of Mediterranean Europe may be in jeopardy because of it. Canada may have to change all of its social and economic policies because of it.

It’s climate change, and it can be devastating for California if we don’t do anything about it. So what can we do about it? Well, how about making some noise about it on Saturday!

(Follow me after the flip to find out how!)

So what can you do about climate change? How about joining us at the Huntington Beach Pier on Saturday to demand action on reducing our carbon footprint? How about going to Main Beach in Laguna Beach on Saturday to demand an 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050? How about finding an event near you to attend on Saturday?

Yes, Congress needs to act on climate change. Yes, the President needs to act on climate change. Yes, the state needs to continue taking action. Yes, our local governments need to take action. And yes, the private sector needs to take action. But NONE OF THESE governments and businesses will take action if WE DON’T. That’s why we need to step it up, speak up, and take action on climate change! I hope you join me this weekend as we take action in our communities.

: )