Tag Archives: oil companies

Lessons (Not) Learned From the Chevron Fire

Chevron Refinery Fire

On Friday, federal accident investigators told California legislators that the state’s patchwork of oil industry regulations needs a serious overhaul. The Chevron fire that produced a toxic cloud and sent 15,000 people to the hospital could have been prevented, but the system was reactive and not designed to foresee and forestall problems, said the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. Duh. The board didn’t need 18 months to come to that conclusion. But Don Holstrom, lead investigator for the board, did put his finger on one problem: the need to bump up the number, skills, and authority of refinery inspectors.

Something smells when an agency purposefully cripples its own enforcement abilities. One good example is the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). The DTSC exists to protect communities like Richmond from toxic harm.  And for years, it’s done a very poor job of it.

The DTSC has broad statutory authority to sanction these giant chemical plants for toxic releases like the one that Chevron caused in its fire, but it consistently refuses. Better yet, the DTSC should play a pro-active role in preventing harm as the department is supposed to do. So, you’d think the DTSC would view having refinery inspectors on staff as a high priority-inspectors that could be given broad latitude to inspect the guts of a refinery where hazardous substances slosh around and not just its excrement. Evidently, the DTSC thinks the fewer refinery inspectors the better.

The DTSC has only two refinery inspectors for the entire state and one of them is green and in training. The DTSC used to have more. But when other inspectors from its refinery unit retired or left, the DTSC didn’t bother to replace them. Nine vacancies in the unit handing refinery inspections were the result. Two scientist positions were approved for the refinery inspection unit and then inexplicably redirected to other positions and regions.

Refinery inspections are the most complex kind and the scientists that do them sometimes take a week to complete them. These scientists know the ins and outs of dealing with refineries. The DTSC maintains that any scientist can conduct a refinery inspection, but that just isn’t true. “Anyone who says that all DTSC scientists can conduct them and are trained to do them is either lying or out of their mind,” says one DTSC career investigator.

Under the direction of Chief Deputy Director Odette Madriago positions can be cut or simply re-directed, the investigator said. On top of that, “Odette has put in place the strictest travel requirements of all CAL EPA.”  The inspectors and investigators that have to travel have to fill out a lengthy document and have to get approval from their supervisor before they can go do an inspection or investigation. “These travel restrictions have allowed polluters to go unchecked and unregulated,” the investigator said.

One explanation is budgets are tight. Another is that it isn’t in the interest of someone like Ms. Madriago to regulate an industry in which she invests. She’s invested up to $100,000 in Chevron and in BP Amoco. Why regulate these refineries and sanction them millions of dollars that could affect their stock price?

Both Ms. Madriago and DTSC Director Debbie Raphael have taken to meeting behind closed doors with refinery executives, say DTSC sources. Normally, when an issue is discussed the DTSC official most involved is invited in to participate. Not anymore. “Ever since Debbie’s been here, Odette goes with Debbie everywhere to take these tours on oil refineries,” said the investigator. “They are inseparable. Odette is always there. They meet with refinery officials without the knowledge of the regulators behind closed doors.” A visit by Ms. Raphael and Ms. Madriago to a Chevron refinery last fall irked inspectors who were never told. “We show up at a refinery and we have to hear it from the city manager or CEO that Debbie and Odette were there,” said one inspector. “We find out when we go.”

Now that manpower is tight, inspections are cursory because they are rushed-and that endangers health and safety, he said. The inspector proposed a program of cross-training between regions so scientists could perform inspections in their own regions. The proposal didn’t even get a cursory response from DTSC’s director. “You just have to put this into perspective, we aren’t robots, we’re human beings,” said the inspector. “You put a lot of stress on inspectors and things get missed. There wasn’t any thorough inspecting going on, how can there be?”

Is it any wonder that California’s refineries experienced 41 new accidents, leaks, chemical releases, fires, break-downs and other failures since the Richmond fire last August? That’s about two a week, according to a new coalition spearheaded by UC Berkeley’s Labor Occupational Health Program that did the research and is calling for a new system of regulation.

With the right resources, DTSC sources say inspectors could help make sure a refinery’s operations were safe. “In some cases, the facility might have some device that is not properly working and hazardous waste might be escaping,” said the investigator. “Corroded pipes are in that ballpark.” Inspectors need to examine an entire facility to make sure what the facility claims about the content of the hazardous waste it generates at the other end is true, he said.

But instead of emphasizing this, Ms. Raphael is dismantling a pollution source reduction program that encouraged businesses to switch out harmful chemicals and use safer technology in favor of reassigning personnel without the appropriate skills to develop rules for manufacturing greener products. “Perhaps Odette is so hell-bent on eliminating the source reduction program because the program has history targeted refineries,” said one DTSC scientist. “Refineries have not appreciated the attention and have complained that we unfairly target them.”

The last thing that is needed is another blue-ribbon commission the DTSC can hide behind
like the one Governor Brown formed to study the issue of refinery regulation. The DTSC began gathering refinery profiles more than a decade ago in an initial step to regulating the industry, a tacit admission that the agency could already be doing far more than it is. Then the industry’s lobbying killed it on the grounds of national security.

No, we need a system where regulators enforce existing laws, prioritize their core responsibilities, and publicly provide information in real time on company audits, fines, and regulatory actions taken by all involved agencies in one central, easily accessed database.

And we need their managers to get out of the way. The day the Chevron fire happened, one inspector was scheduled to take vacation. “I remember saying I can cancel my vacation and my supervisor said I might as well take my vacation. It was business as usual. I didn’t think it was right.” Instead, he said the department has blinders on, slapping down inspectors who want to take a more holistic approach. “Don’t worry about the fuel system or this production unit over here,” he said. “That is what we are told.”

Shame on California-allegedly the most progressive state in the nation-for not already having a refinery strike force of inspectors across agencies working together on assessments of a refinery’s structural integrity, from corroded pipes to fugitive emissions. And shame on California for not taking some players off the existing team-players with financial conflicts of interest like Odette Madriago that may have broken the law.


Posted by Liza Tucker, Consumer Advocate and author of Consumer Watchdog’s Golden Wasteland report on the toxic environment at DTSC. Follow Consumer Watchdog on Facebook or on Twitter.

Which is the Worst Oil Company of them All?

There are so many ways to assess which oil company is truly the worst of the worst. It also depends on the day. You’ve got ExxonMobil who not only caused the infamous oil spill at Alaska’s Prince William Sound but is also one of the world’s biggest funders of the global warming denial campaign. You’ve got BP –who not only caused the greatest man-made environmental disaster in history, but negotiated a settlement that does not properly compensate the victims of the spill. Still, in California, it’s hard to compete with Chevron.

If you watched the Republican National Convention and/or the Democratic National Convention, you probably saw endless Chevron greenwashing commercials. If you listen to the radio on your way to work, their advertisements run on every major station. Their "We Agree" campaign focuses on making them seem like a socially responsible business trying to do right for America. Yes, they care about profits, but their business is really all about helping everyday people meet their energy needs. Oh, and don’t worry about their fracking operations –they would never try to extract natural gas unless it was completely safe and foolproof. Um… right. In Chevron We Trust.

But what makes Chevron truly heinous is all of the campaigning they try to do outside of the public view. Unbeknownst to the public, Chevron (along with their pro-corporate allies) spend millions of dollars every election cycle to attack pro-environmental, progressive candidates. For the last decade, CLCV and our allies in the California Alliance have successfully defended our candidates and defeated theirs in no small part by revealing to voters who exactly is funding the opposition campaign. Guess what? Voters don’t like it when Big Oil, Big Tobacco, Big Insurance, and Wall Street Banksters try to buy an election. But while we’re successful about 75% of the time, Chevron and its allies still win 25% of their campaigns and have refined their tactics to be more deceptive and tough to beat.

Overtime, these large corporations have created PACs with innocuous sounding names mislead voters into thinking they’re something other than large corporate front groups. This includes groups like JobsPAC, the California Now Independent Expenditure PAC (which is often confused with the respected California National Organization of Women [NOW] PAC), California Alliance for Progress & Education (which sounds much like us and our partners’ California Alliance), Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy, and the Alliance for California’s Tomorrow, which is primarily funded by health insurance companies.

For your convenience, I've linked all of their Secretary of State Campaign Disclosure pages, so you can see exactly who funds these groups. The first thing you may notice is that they're not funded by individuals and they tend to receive money from each other. Why? Because these groups allow a corporation like Chevron to contribute money to one PAC, and then have it transferred elsewhere from that PAC to another so that when voters receive mail from Alliance for California's Tomorrow and go to research who funded the PAC, all they see are contributors that have other innocuous sounding names completely unaware of what entities are behind it all.

The newest front group is called the California Senior Advocates League. You may be surprised to learn that it has nothing to do with seniors. The Ventura County Star’s Timm Herdt has been particularly focused on revealing just how deceptive a group this is:

If you think a group with a name like that is concerned about Medicare, think again. It's an outfit funded by the National Association of Realtors, Chevron, Philip Morris, Anthem Blue Cross, the California Chamber of Commerce and others. It focuses on state legislative races, and attempting to track its money is no easy task.

I sought to do so during the primary election campaign, and found myself doing a maneuver I called the "Chevron Four Step." It went like this: Chevron gives $375,000 to JobsPAC, which then gives $250,000 to the California Now Independent Expenditure Committee, which then gives $220,000 to the California Senior Advocates League, which then spends $400,000 on state Senate races.

As always, we have our work cut out for us to fight back and campaign for our candidates, but all of this stresses just how badly we need real campaign finance reform. Even Assemblymember Julia Brownley’s Disclose Act, which would have required improved campaign contribution disclosures met heavy opposition that lobbied hard to kill the bill in the legislature. Ten guesses who some of the bills biggest opponents were.

Facts of Life on High Gas Prices: It’s the Speculators & Oil Companies to Blame, Not Middle East

While skirmishes in Libya and uncertainty in the Middle East are nice cover for outrageous gasoline prices, the fact is the same old suspects are making a killing from sky-high gas prices approaching $4 dollars per gallon in California: big oil companies and greedy speculators.

While skirmishes in Libya and uncertainty in the Middle East are nice cover for outrageous gasoline prices, the fact is the same old suspects are making a killing from sky-high gas prices approaching $4 dollars per gallon in California: big oil companies and greedy speculators.

The speculative market may have driven crude oil prices up, but that’s not the price oil companies pay for the crude oil that goes into our gasoline. America’s big oil companies use crude oil that they have harvested from the ground or bought much cheaper through long term contracts to refine into gasoline. You’ll see the results in next quarter’s profit statements: big profits from both crude oil sales and refineries that make gasoline, what’s called “upstream’ and “downstream” operations in profit reports.

Consumer Watchdog has for years both tried to curb the opaqueness of the volatile speculative market for oil and to regulate supplies at gasoline refineries because oil companies game both systems, creating artificial shortages in the markets to jack up prices or exploiting historical events to justify obscene profits.  Today’s sky high gasoline prices are the result of oil companies shutting down refineries and playing the speculative markets for big gains.

The deafening silence from the White House and groups in DC loyal to the President who know better is the most astonishing thing.

Obama campaigned against oil company greed on the campaign trail but now he seems to have lost his voice on the subject. Republicans are taking the offensive, but the oil industry that has been nourished in their bosoms for decades is at the heart of the crisis. Oil companies have kept the nation running on such short supplies of gasoline that any jolt to the system sends gas prices through the roof and makes the economy pay.

What follows is the five facts of life I have learned from more than a decade fighting oil companies, battles I recount in my new book The Progressive’s Guide To Raising Hell. It’s about time the White House started educating Americans about these facts of life and fighting back against the real perpetrators of the pain at the pump.

• Rather than compete with each other to provide more cheaper gasoline, oil companies cheat together to withhold needed gasoline supply from the market. Consistently, the companies artificially pull back refinery production of gasoline in order to reduce supply coming in during periods of peak demand so they can increase prices. It’s legal so long as there is no smoky back room where they talk about it, but they don’t need to since industry data about supply flows freely on corporate computer screens. This behavior has been documented by government agencies like the Federal Trade Commission, which found, for example, in an investigation of Midwest gasoline price spikes, that one refiner admitted keeping supply out of a region in need because it would boost prices.

• Oil companies failed to build ample refining capacity to meet demand. Over the last twenty years, America’s demand for gasoline increased 30 percent and refinery capacity at existing refineries increased only 10 percent. No new American refinery has come on line during the last thirty years. Internal memos and documents from the big oil companies show they deliberately shut down refining capacity in order to have a greater command over the market.

• The big oil companies have their own crude oil production operations and control substantial foreign production of crude oil. They profit wildly when the price of crude oil skyrockets, so they have an interest in driving up the price, despite the fact that they blame OPEC for those crude oil increases. The crude oil producers can even drive up the price of crude by restricting gasoline production and trading crude oil among their own subsidiaries to drive up the price paid for crude by others. Traders with connections to the oil companies can also make big bets on the opaque crude oil futures market to drive up the price and also drive up the value of their Exxon shares.

• The crude oil that big integrated oil companies use in their own refineries is mostly bought on long-term contracts or through their own production, so the oil companies don’t pay the world price for crude oil when it’s high. Their raw material costs are much lower than they would like us to believe. So when the companies raise the price of gasoline in tandem with the run-up in crude oil prices, they are making big profits because Exxon’s crude oil unit is charging its own refining unit a higher price for crude than is necessary. The accounting shenanigans result in an overall windfall profit but show the companies’ gasoline refineries making little profit, and “upstream” crude-oil production divisions making the lion’s share.


Posted by Jamie Court, author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell and President of Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

Beware of for-profit slate mailers that claim to represent ‘green’ positions

Union of Concerned Scientists Warns CA Voters about Misleading Slate Mailer and ‘Trojan Horse’ Attack Against State’s Clean Energy Law; Urges Voters to Vote NO on 26

With most voters’ attention diverted by the oil industry’s efforts to derail the state’s landmark clean energy and climate law with Proposition 23, another, less scrutinized oil-industry-funded ballot measure–Proposition 26–also poses a serious threat to the environment and clean energy.

Proposition 26 has received nearly $16 million from Chevron and other big oil companies, as well as alcohol and tobacco interests, to get themselves off the hook from paying for environmental and health damage they cause and shift that burden to taxpayers.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is alerting California voters to beware of misleading ‘slate mailers’ arriving in their mailboxes just before the November 2 election. UCS strongly urges a ‘NO’ vote on Prop. 23 and Prop. 26.

“While Prop 23 is a frontal assault on our clean energy law, Prop 26 is more like a Trojan horse,” said Dan Kalb, UCS California policy manager. “As deceptive as the Prop 23 campaign has been, the campaign to pass Prop 26 is even more insidious. Not only do the oil and tobacco companies behind Prop 26 hide the fact that it would starve state and local public health, clean air, and clean energy programs, but now they are funding misleading slate mailers that misinform voters about what the pro-environment position really is on Prop 26.  The pro-environment position on Prop 26 is a definite NO.”

Voters have already begun receiving a for-profit mailer with the headline “Californians Vote Green” recommending votes on Props 25 (no) and 26 (yes) that are the opposite of what the state’s leading public health and environmental organizations recommend.  UCS and several other leading environmental and consumer groups strongly support Prop. 25 and oppose Prop. 26.

“This pay-to-play ‘green’ mailer sinks to new lows when it comes to false advertising,” said Kalb.


Proposition 26, which is vague and poorly written, threatens California’s efforts to bolster green jobs by cleaning up the state’s energy supply and cutting global warming pollution.  According to UCS, if passed, Proposition 26 could:

~ Prevent the California Air Resources Board from collecting a fee from polluters to fund CARB and other agencies implementing policies to reach the state’s 2020 global warming emission-reduction target. Those policies include standards for renewable energy and low-carbon fuel.

~ Prevent CARB from levying fees on global warming pollution as part of an economy-wide cap on emissions.

~ Eliminate funding streams for public transportation, crippling implementation of SB 375, which is designed to help Californians drive less, pollute less, and spend less money on gas.

Proposition 26 threatens California’s clean energy and climate laws by oddly redefining taxes, Kalb explained.  Under current law, the state and municipal governments have the authority to impose narrowly-defined fees on industries whose activities harm public health or the environment and then use that revenue to correct and prevent those harms, as long as the amount of the fee bears a reasonable relationship to the harm.

Fees require a simple majority to pass in the Legislature, while taxes require a two-thirds super-majority vote. Proposition 26 would redefine fees as taxes, establishing a nearly impossible hurdle that could dry up funding for CARB and local governments to implement vital energy and environmental clean-up programs.

“If Californians want to support a clean environment and vibrant economy in California, they should vote ‘NO’ on Props 23 and 26,” said Erin Rogers, manager of the Western States Climate and Energy Program at UCS. “If passed, these measures won’t just put the brakes on California’s clean energy laws, they will send a message to businesses, entrepreneurs and investors in the state’s booming clean tech sector that California is no longer open for business. That’s a rotten deal, especially considering that clean tech is one of the only bright spots our state’s economy.”

Texas Oil Companies Invade California

( – promoted by Robert Cruickshank)

It is not a headline we would expect to see, but that is exactly what is happening in our state as we speak.

In 2006, the California Legislature passed AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act. The Governor then signed this law to make our state the leader in fighting greenhouse gas pollution.  I hope you will consider joining me in working to ensure that Big Oil does not get its way in California by eviscerating our landmark climate change legislation.  

California’s Attorney General is uniquely positioned to stand up for strong, effective enforcement of our state’s environmental laws. That is why I am calling on each and every candidate for California Attorney General — Democratic and Republican — to denounce this effort by Big Oil to slash through our state’s environmental protections for their own corporate gain.

There’s more, and also cross-posted on Daily Kos.

Texas oil companies want to stop California before we can really implement AB 32, our landmark climate change legislation. Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp., both based in Texas, are almost single-handedly financing a measure that would eviscerate AB 32.   The two companies have pledged $2 million to help get the initiative on the ballot, and even tried to sneak their contributions past any observers.

We cannot afford to turn around now. Today, I want to make my support for this vital piece of environmental legislation crystal clear. I applaud Governor Schwarzenegger for his commitment to AB 32, and call on others to join the fight to protect AB 32.

I urge you to join me in supporting California’s landmark greenhouse gas pollution law by signing my petition for climate change solutions.

I am committed to protecting the environment, and that is why I am proud to be the endorsed candidate of the California League of Conservation Voters.  If you’d like to help my campaign to defend our precious natural resources, please consider donating to our campaign.

Economic studies show that we can fight climate change and can create jobs at the same time. We cannot let Texas oil companies muddy the waters so that they can continue to practice business as usual while the environment pays the price. California has always been a leader in protecting our environment, and together we can ensure that we never abdicate this role.

Kamala Harris is the District Attorney of the City and County of San Francisco, and is a candidate for Attorney General of the State of California.

Asm. Torrico Goes After The Oil Severance Tax – Again

It was hard to follow what was in and out of the budget in those final hours, but as it turned out, the oil severance tax, which at some point was part of the negotiations, ended up out of it.  So we remain the only oil-producing state in the country to not charge corporations for taking our natural resources out of the ground.  Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico is trying to change that by introducing a bill that would tax oil companies and use the proceeds to fund higher education.  This was first reported on John Myers’ Twitter feed, but now California Chronicle has a full report.

With California spending almost as much incarcerating inmates in prisons as it does educating students in higher education, Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico introduced legislation today to expand funding for community colleges, the California State University and University of California.

“California is on the wrong track heading in the wrong direction,” Majority Leader Torrico said. “Our prisons are overflowing and yet we are turning away students at our universities. The Master Plan for Higher Education is becoming a distant memory. This is not a sustainable path for California. We must invest more in higher education. It is a solid down payment on our economic future.”

The recently passed state budget contained a 10 percent across the board cut for the UC and CSU systems and reductions for community colleges.

The increased funding from the bill, AB 656, would be derived from a severance tax on oil extracted within California. California, the third-largest oil producing state in the country, is the only state where oil is extracted without a tax.

“My bill will bring California in line with more than 20 other oil-extracting states,” Torrico said. “When other states are charging over 12 percent from multi-billion dollar oil companies, we should be doing more to receive funds for our natural resources.”

While I’d rather put the money into the General Fund rather than a specific sector, I can’t imagine a more rational and simple idea.  Nevertheless, I’m sure the Yacht Party will try to block it, as they did successfully last year.  That can be a useful vote for the future (“Which side are you on, students or the oil companies”), but it does nothing to move us forward.  Only by ending the conservative veto can common-sense solutions like this help California progress.

Drill Now, Stop Later Proposal Torched

The State Lands Commission scuttled a proposed compromise that would have brought new oil drilling to the Santa Barbara coast for the first time in California since 1969, in what is seemingly a victory for environmental and coastal protection advocates.  However, some are arguing that the proposal, which would have mandated closure of 4 additional oil platforms off the coast within 13 years, should have gone through.

But a parade of local officials, residents and environmental activists insisted the plan would have advanced efforts to protect the coast by eventually closing four of the region’s 20 platforms.

“For the first time in history, the public and the state will be able to shut down existing oil production,” argued Linda Krop, an attorney for the Environmental Defense Center and one of the people behind the proposal. “Without this project, they’ll continue indefinitely — perhaps another 40 years.” […]

Nineteen of the 20 platforms that dot the ocean off Santa Barbara and Ventura counties are in federal waters. Shuttering four of them, says Krop of the Environmental Defense Center, would make it difficult for the federal government to lease underwater tracts accessible from those platforms.

And with closure of the two processing plants, the prospect would have been more unlikely, she said.

Read the whole article.  There was a significant green alliance in favor of this drilling-for-closure exchange.  I tend to agree with the Lands Commission that the proposal for closure wasn’t completely enforceable, but then, that’s their job to write the law with some enforcement, isn’t it? (I guess their concern is that these are federal waters and the state would be limited to enforce end-dates.)  I also understand John Garamendi’s stated rationale, that approving one lease would set off a parade of oil companies coming to sully the coast, but off course those are approved on a case-by-case basis as well.

If we’re going to talk seriously about drilling off the coast in the future, there should be at least a couple bright lines – closure deals like this, and the implementation of an oil severance tax so that we’re not the only state in the country that doesn’t charge a fee to industry for taking our natural resources out of the ground.

It’s an interesting debate – legislators are split, with coastal Assemblymembers opposing but the locals in Santa Barbara in favor, and even Lois Capps thinks it’s a worthwhile deal.  Endless oil and gas concerns off the coast ought to be dealt with, it’s a good question to ask whether this is the right way.

Van Jones, Green Jobs, and Happy Meal Politics

Some great people have been sashaying through the Big Tent to huddle up with the bloggers.  And the traditional media has joined them, to take exciting pictures of people typing to show how the bloggers kick it.  Rockin’!

I did get a chance to spend a few minutes with Van Jones, an environmental and green jobs activist, to talk about the future of energy and how we can beat the Republicans at their own game.  He also offered a candid assessment of the state of the Presidential campaign.

Jones thinks that the progressive movement and Democratic groups have been “hurt by having a good candidate.  We were so galvanized against Bush in 2004 that every outside group went nuts, threw everything we had at the Republicans, and we almost came up with the win despite a less inspiring candidate.  This year, the spirit of 2004 has been lost.  Obama made the mistake of defunding the outside groups and we’ve become complacent to an extent.”  Jones said that last week’s hit by the Obama campaign on the McCain housing issue was good, but it needs to be a 10-week phenomenon, not a 1-week phenomenon.

On green jobs, which is Jones’ real focus area, he stressed that we need to move the environmental conversation from a cultural one to a political one.  The green-collar economy “can be a place for people to earn money, not spend money.  We need collective action for green citizenship, to create the jobs of the future in a Green New Deal.  As long as carbon is free we’re never going to move forward.”  He was pleased by the recent efforts by municipalities and states (green jobs bills have been passed in Massachusetts and Washington state, and the US Conference of Mayors is on board as well), but recognizes that the federal government must be involved as well.  “This is about laws, not gizmos.  Technology cannot be the savior.  This has to be a bottom-up, inside-outside AND a top-down strategy.  If the Feds are MIA, human life will be MIA in the future.”

We talked about the offshore drilling debate, where Jones clearly stated that the Republicans won the day by lying to the American people.  He had three major points:

• There is no such thing as American oil.  There is oil drilled by multinationals that is sent overseas to China and India.  American offshore driling will do nothing to solve any American oil problems.

• We banned drilling in offshore areas not to save birds and fish, but because of coastal families and coastal communities, because kids were walking into the water and coming out with oil on them, because property values were plunging.  Democrats should not be willing to throw away America’s beauty for a 2-cent solution in 10 years.

• We’ve seen the new phenomenon of the “dirty greens,” who want to have an “all of the above strategy” on energy, with solar and wind, but also clean coal and drilling offshore and shale and all these dirty polluters.  “All of the above” is not a strategy.  It’s not a wise choice, but a stupid swipe at a persistent problem.

Democrats are right on price – if you cut demand and expand supply through renewables, the price will drop.  They are right on people, because those steps will create millions of jobs.  And they’re right on the planet, because it’s the only solution to preserve our environmental future.  What the Republicans are offering is Happy Meal Politics, the kind of politics that offers everything for free with no residual consequences.

Jones is a great messenger, and a real leader in the green movement.  Democrats would do well to listen to him.

CA-20: Costa sharpens his knife for another twist

It’s really beyond the point of tolerance for Bush Dog Jim Costa, who represents the district with the worst well-being in America for its residents.  As Republicans dishonestly try to bully Democrats with their meaningless “Drill Now” chant, despite the fact that offshore drilling wouldn’t lower gas prices and would do nothing to secure the energy future of the nation, Costa has joined up with a bipartisan group seeking a “compromise” (read: giving in to Republican fantasies) on energy.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers seeking to craft a compromise on energy legislation includes politically vulnerable members, according to a partial list of members obtained by The Hill.

Reps. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) and John Peterson (R-Pa.), who organized the group, have kept the list of participants under wraps since the recent announcement of its formal launch.

Abercrombie and Peterson previously indicated the complete list of members would be released last week but later reconsidered, saying certain members could be face political problems if their names were released.

Reps. John Tanner (D-Tenn.), Gene Green (D-Texas), Nancy Boyda (D-Kan.), Nick Lampson (D-Texas), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Dan Boren (D-Okla.) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) are part of the group, according to the list.

The group met on Wednesday […]

The bill that is being crafted breaks significantly from Democratic leadership on the topic of offshore drilling.

Boren, Costa, Green, Lampson and Nunes twice voted no on the Democratic leadership’s “use it or lose it” energy drilling bill.

It’d be one thing if Costa were actually a “vulnerable member,” but his “opponent” this year, Jim Lopez, has no records with the FEC, hasn’t updated his campaign website in a month and a half and hasn’t had an event in the district since March.  Costa is about as vulnerable as Iron Man.  So one must conclude that he plans to sell out the Democratic Party on energy as a matter of principle.

It is completely absurd to open up the Outer Continental Shelf to drilling when there are over 60 million acres of leased public land lying fallow.  The last people with any interest in lowering gas prices are oil execs; they want offshore leases so they can keep them in reserve and tell their stockholders how much cash they’re sitting on.  So Costa simply wants to enrich oil company bigwigs at the expense of the middle class, and ignore the serious risk to the planet in stalling on departing from the failed energy policy of the past.  This man shouldn’t dare even call himself a Democrat after the work he’s done in the 110th Congress.

CA-26: Americans United For Change Hit Dreier On Drilling

Today Americans United for Change, the progressive advocacy group that is visiting districts throughout the country on the “Bush Legacy Tour,” hammered David Dreier for being a tool to Big Oil and special interests.  From their release:

With gas prices above $4, Americans United for Change, the progressive issue-advocacy group that recently launched its national Bush Legacy Bus tour, blasted Rep. David Drier today for standing in the way of lower gas prices for California families by voting against meaningful legislation to release 70 million barrels of light, sweet crude oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve into the open market and replace it with heavy, sour oil that is tougher to refine – a move that has historically brought down gas prices and strengthened our national security.

The SPR has been tapped or suspended before by the current President Bush, President Clinton, and the first President Bush and each time oil has been released the impact on prices has been dramatic and immediate.  For example, in 1991, oil prices immediately dropped by 33 percent. The 2000 exchange drove oil prices down by 19 percent. And the release by President Bush in 2005 resulted in a 9 percent drop.

“With gas prices hovering above $4 a gallon, Rep. Dreier was given a chance today bring real relief now to California families forced to make incredible sacrifices choosing between bills, gas, and food,” said Caren Benjamin, for Americans United for Change. “But without apology or question, Congressman Dreier chose to put his loyalty to Bush and his addiction to big oil cash ahead of relief for struggling Californians.”

I don’t know if the “Free Our Oil” campaign and focusing on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is the most effective message, but clearly somebody has to show some leadership on the energy front.  Contrary to popular beliefs, Democrats are NOT being pushed out of this debate.  In a recent poll by The Wilderness Society, the public is split on the question of drilling or protecting arctic lands and offshore areas, and they believe 76%-19% that the best way to secure our energy future is to invest in new technologies and renewable sources rather than continue to drill.  In addition, by a 63%-31% score, those polled believe that the President’s proposal to open up ANWR and the Outer Continental Shelf to drilling “is more likely to enrich oil companies than to lower gas prices for American consumers.”  That’s why it’s so crucial for AUFC to note that David Dreier has taken $129,400 in contributions from oil company executives over the years.

There’s starting to be some real pushback on this “drill now” blather.  The Democrats put forward this SPR bill today and most Republicans took the bait of voting against it.  Jimmy Hoffa Jr. of the Teamsters, in a real game-changer of a move, came out with a very strong statement rejecting “drilling our way out” of this crisis, and demanding long-term energy solutions.  Democratic Congressional candidate John Boccieri from Ohio made this amusing Web video to mock his opponent’s reliance on drilling:

And just to your left, CA-46’s Debbie Cook has put together a comprehensive 10-point plan to realize Al Gore’s vision of receiving 100% of our electricity from renewables by 2018.

There’s work to be done – by candidates, policy wonks, advocacy groups, and regular people – but together we can beat back these shortsighted solutions and expose those who want to wed our energy needs to the failures of the past.