By Doug Porter
Perhaps you’ve heard the news stories in recent days; the ones saying gasoline prices in California are about to take a big jump at the pump. Here’s a quote from a Capital Public Radio story aired on KPBS recently, “Projected increases range from 10 cents to 69 cents a gallon.”
What these news stories aren’t saying is that there is a concerted campaign underway by the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and its allies to forestall the inclusion of fuels in California’s cap-and-trade program.
This isn’t about a tax. It’s not unexpected; the industry has known this would happen for five years. The hubbub is really all about the dirty energy business making a last ditch stand in defense of their continuing contribution to climate change.
Much of the media coverage centers on a bill (AB69) sponsored by Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno that would push back the inclusion of transportation fuels in cap and trade to 2018. This bill, based on the estimates of the energy industry, purports to be protecting economically disadvantaged Californians from a drastic price increase.
Trust me on this one, the dirty energy industry doesn’t really care what consumers pay for its product. They’re collectively making $177,000 per minute in profits, floating on $2.4 billion annually (PDF download) in federal tax breaks.
Slightly less than 38% of all greenhouse gases emitted in California come from transportation. On January 1, 2015 the oil and gas products used for that sector of the economy will be subject to the provisions of the Cap and Trade program resulting from the 2006 California Global Warming Solutions Act.
The aim of those provisions is to use a ‘market solution’ to reduce greenhouse gases emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 — a reduction of approximately 15 percent below emissions expected under a “business as usual” scenario.
The Koch Brothers Sponsored $20 Hamburger
It’s important to remember that the dirty energy companies opposing implementation of this law are also funding the climate change deniers The Western States Petroleum Association is the most powerful corporate lobbying group in Sacramento, having spent $1,456,785 in just the first three months of 2014.
An example of the kind of pathetic spin cranked out by the energy biz can be found in the aforementioned Capital News Service story. In paragraph five, reporter Katie Orr figuratively hands the mic to Mike Madrid. His Twitter biography says he is a “Sacramento based GOP political consultant.”
“If gas prices were to go up 15 cents, you would start to see some political shake out. If it goes up 25, 30, 40 cents? You would see an earthquake,” he said.
And California’s been though a similar political earthquake before during the state’s 2000 energy crisis.
“Good example of that would be when Gray Davis is governor and the lights go out in California. Whether or not he was responsible for it or not is of absolutely no consequence,” Madrid said. “The voters are going to want someone’s head on a platter, (and) they’re going to get it.”
Following that bit of fear mongering, the National Federation of Independent Business gets placement for its message in the story, with restaurateur Travis Hausauer conjuring up yet another frightening scenario:
“What’s gonna happen is we’re going to get to a point in California where we’re gonna have $20 hamburgers,” Hausauer said. “People won’t be able to afford them and I won’t be able to sell them so we’ll have to close our doors.”
Let’s see who might be paying for all that $20 per burger scariness.
The National Federation of Independent Business is one of the most influential small-business advocacy groups in the country. They battle against government regulation, higher taxes and, perhaps most famously, Obamacare. And they do it all as the self-described “voice of small business.”
But it turns out that the champions of Main Street America got more money last year from a group backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch than any other single source.
From a New Yorker article on the Koch Brothers, who’ve funded climate change denialist groups all over the world:
Climate-change policy directly affects Koch Industries’s bottom line. Koch Industries, according to Environmental Protection Agency statistics cited in the study, is a major source of carbon-dioxide emissions, the kind of pollution that most scientists believe causes global warming. In 2011, according to the E.P.A.’s greenhouse-gas-reporting database, the company, which has oil refineries in three states, emitted over twenty-four million tons of carbon dioxide, as much as is typically emitted by five million cars.
The Sun Will Rise, Gas Prices Will Go Up
Gas prices will go up in California. Again. (Just like they jumped nearly 60 cents during the first few months of 2014 for no apparent reason.)
The most likely scenario, not funded by the dirty energy industry is the final report of the Market Simulation Group to the California Air Resources Board. Here’s an excerpt from an article at UC Berkeley’s Energy Institute at Haas:
Our estimates imply that by far the most likely effect of including transport fuels in the program next January will be to raise California gasoline prices about 10 cents per gallon. That barely registers in the context of gasoline price gyrations.
To put that in context, the average Californian uses about 40 gallons of gasoline and diesel per month (directly in their own cars and indirectly through transportation of products they purchase), so this will raise their cost of living in California by about $4 per month. That’s not nothing, but in the long list of +costs and benefits of living in California, it isn’t one of the major factors. And unlike when crude oil price spikes drive up gasoline prices, the cap and trade revenue is going back to Californians through state expenditures of the funds.
Finally, the program has been designed around the 2015 expansion to include transport fuels. Changing the program at this point to exclude fuels from cap-and-trade would be extremely disruptive to the market and could exacerbate the risk of volatile and high allowance prices.
Lest I leave readers with the impression that Katie Orr and Capital News Service are shills for the energy industry, I should point out at the end of the story she does include information from defenders of including fuels in Cap and Trade. But I think it is fair to question why the fear came before the facts. (It’s called framing.)
Backlash Over Diaper Bill
Both KPBS and the Los Angeles Times have stories posted about the hostility Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez is facing since introducing a bill that would help pay for diapers for people getting public assistance with children under 2 years old.
Gonzalez vented her frustration in a tweet. A national television network had reported on one of her bills, which would subsidize diapers for some poor California families. She says the response was a barrage of hate mail, nasty phone calls and Facebook messages. Gonzalez tweeted “the offensiveness of comments” about her diaper bill exceeded anything she’d ever seen.
From the Los Angeles Times:
“All we are talking about, honestly, is I want people to work, I want to take away barriers to work,” Gonzalez said. “To access child care, you have to have diapers.”
She was surprised, she said, by a harsh backlash, in phone messages and social media, after her bill generated news stories last week. “The vileness of what people say has shocked me, and it takes a lot to shock me,” Gonzalez told me Monday from Sacramento. “Requests to sterilize my people, to get abortions, to quit opening our legs.”
One news story identified her as a single mother, she said, “so a lot of people thought I was a welfare mom.” (Gonzalez, who is the daughter of a farmworker, graduated from Stanford and received a law degree from UCLA.)
Both accounts mention one news story as the source of much of the negative blow back. Just in case you were wondering, it was the Fox News account generating all that hate.
RIP- Nanu Nanu (Robin Williams on Johnny Carson 1991)
On This Day: 1877 – Thomas Edison invented the phonograph and made the first sound recording. 1955 -Teamsters official William Grami is kidnapped, bound and beaten near Sebastopol, Calif. He was leading a drive to organize apple plant workers in the area 1964 – Mickey Mantle set a major league baseball record when he hit home runs from both the left and ride sides of the plate in the same game.
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