By Doug Porter
Perhaps you’ve seen the the nagging ads on the internet. Or read the one of numerous op-ed pieces published in the dead tree media.
Their messages are simple. The California Drivers Alliance wants you to be afraid of an increase (a tax!) in gas prices come January. And they want you to believe this increase is some part of a covert agenda.
The truth of the matter here is that the only thing covert going on is the financial backing of the oil and gas industry for groups appearing to be grass-roots organizations started by ordinary people. As is the case whenever astroturfing is involved, the truth is the last thing they’d like consumers to know about.
Unravelling the Dirty Energy Lie
Beginning in January, fossil fuels will fall under California’s state’s cap-and-trade system to fight global warming. Oil companies will have to buy “allowances” to cover the emissions produced by burning the gasoline, diesel and jet fuel they sell in the state. These emissions amount to the largest portion of all greenhouse gases produced in the Golden State.
Plans for the phasing-in of transportation fuels has been on the books since AB 32 (the California Global Warming Solutions Act) passed in 2006. The concept of Cap and Trade, which treats pollutants as a commodity/cost subject to market conditions, was originally touted by business-friendly groups as a path towards reducing pollution.
My guess is that the energy companies thought environmentalists would never buy in to such a notion. They were wrong. Regardless, there was nothing “hidden” about it.
Deja Vu All Over Again
Californians have voted on this issue before. Back in 2010, Proposition 23, sponsored by the ‘California Jobs Initiative,’ sought to play on people’s post-recession economic fears, seeking to freeze the provisions of AB 32 until California’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.5% or below for four consecutive quarters.
Then-Gov.Arnold Schwarzenegger called this a wording trick to delay the environmental regulations indefinitely, and Californian overwhelmingly defeated the proposition, 62% to 38%.
Here it is four years later and since the “job scare” strategy didn’t work, the industry is pitching cap and trade as a “hidden tax.”
From Business Week:
Once again the oil industry is suiting up. The restrictions will cripple the economy and cost jobs, lobbyists say. But instead of making a direct plea to the public for support to delay or repeal the changes, oil companies are quietly working to make it look like Californians are spontaneously rising up in protest against the climate standards. In recent months, groups have popped up that appear to be grass-roots organizations started by ordinary people opposed to the rules. In fact, they’re paid for by the oil industry.
The most active group, the two-month-old California Drivers Alliance, describes itself on its website as a “movement of motorists, small businesses, fuel providers, and consumers.” It’s been running a slew of online ads, radio spots, and bold-faced ads in newspapers across the state, urging readers to “Stop the Hidden Gas Tax.” Mirroring an oil industry claim, the ad says the regulations will “increase the cost of gas between 16¢ and 76¢ per gallon.” One online video features a Hispanic mother of two who says she works for a nonprofit that helps immigrants and can’t afford to drive her car to work. “Many Latino families who only make minimum wage, we just honestly can’t afford for gas prices to go higher,” she says.
Asked where the alliance gets its money, spokesman Jerry Azevedo says the group’s funding comes from the Western States Petroleum Association, whose members include BP (BP), Chevron (CVX), ExxonMobil (XOM), and Shell Oil (RDSA:LN). He wouldn’t say how much money the alliance had received. WSPA didn’t reply to numerous messages seeking comment.
The Real Reason for the Lies
Studies show that gas prices will rise come January. The increase will likely be 9 cents per gallon. (The actual increase will depend on the market price for carbon emissions) The industry keeps touting a 76 cent increase, a number largely derived from a study of what gas prices might be come 2020.
What they don’t want you to know–and the REAL reason for this campaign is that these same studies show a substantial decrease over the coming years in the amount Californians spend on fossil fuels per capita. More energy efficient cars on the road will reduce the amount of gasoline needed.
Cap and Trade is part of a strategy aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The dirty oil industry–which continues to fund climate change denialists–would like you to be distracted and listen to their arguments about how much pollution China creates.
Their premise is that nothing will happened until everybody agrees on a plan. Given that dirty energy has already showed that it will fund opposition to any international or domestic plan addressing climate change, this argument is just another loser’s excuse.
Money talks, bullshit walks. It’s that simple.
How to Avoid the So-Called Hidden Gas Tax
From GreenTech Media, here are three simple ways you can avoid having your fuel costs go up next year:
Drive 70 mph instead of 72 mph on the freeway. That difference would improve your fuel economy by about 2.5 percent. The savings are much larger if you actually drive the speed limit.
Buy a car that gets 31 mpg instead of 30 mpg. That will get you more than a 3 percent savings in fuel cost, more than offsetting the price increase.
Keep your tires properly inflated. The Department of Energy estimates that underinflated tires waste about 0.3 percent of gasoline for every 1 psi drop in pressure.
Law Enforcement’s Cash Scam
A few months back there was the hint of a scandal regarding seized assets involving the San Diego Police Department. A million or so dollars in missing money turned out to be nothing more than an administrative error. Really.
Now the Washington Post is two parts into a three part series about questionable practices surrounding just how those assets get seized in the first place.
It seems as though police departments have found ways to gild the lily as their reliance on seized funds has increased over the past decade or so. Hiding behind drug and terrorism enforcement mechanisms, some departments (and it appears to be widespread), laws meant to put major dealers and terrorists out of business are being used to shake down motorists.
In the years following the 9/11 attacks local police departments around the country were encouraged by the federal government act become aggressive partners in the wars on terror and drugs. The feds share the cash seized in major busts with local enforcers. This federal Equitable Sharing Program, has led to police seizing $2.5 billion since 2001 from people who were not charged with a crime and without a warrant being issued.
From part one of the Washington Post story:
The effort succeeded, but it had an impact that has been largely hidden from public view: the spread of an aggressive brand of policing that has spurred the seizure of hundreds of millions of dollars in cash from motorists and others not charged with crimes, a Washington Post investigation found. Thousands of people have been forced to fight legal battles that can last more than a year to get their money back.
Behind the rise in seizures is a little-known cottage industry of private police-training firms that teach the techniques of “highway interdiction” to departments across the country.
One of those firms created a private intelligence network known as Black Asphalt Electronic Networking & Notification System that enabled police nationwide to share detailed reports about American motorists — criminals and the innocent alike — including their Social Security numbers, addresses and identifying tattoos, as well as hunches about which drivers to stop.
Chat Room Network Raises Cash for Cops
The Black Asphalt ‘Electronic Networking & Notification System’enables the more than 25,000 member officers and federal authorities to share reports and chat online. Here’s an example of how it works, from Part Two:
In another part of Black Asphalt, users posted “be on the lookout” reports, also known as BOLOs, to single out certain drivers for police attention in other jurisdictions. The private BOLO reports generally rely on police intuition rather than hard evidence or probable cause.
In April, a California Highway Patrol officer stopped a woman driving in a Kentucky car that was littered with food wrappers and energy drinks. He did not believe her statement that she was driving to a funeral and asked her why she didn’t fly. She did not have good answer, he said. So he posted her driver’s license number and urged other police to be on the lookout. “She will be loaded coming back for sure,” he wrote.
I don’t know if the San Diego PD or Sheriff’s Department benefits from the privately run Black Asphalt Network. But I do know from reading the Washington Post story that an overwhelming majority of those wrongly targeted are people of color.
Stay turned. This is going to be an ongoing story.
The Minimum Wage Went Up and the Sky Didn’t Fall
From columnist Dana Milbank:
In July 2013, hotelier Scott Ostrander stood before the city council in SeaTac, Wash., pleading with the town not to adopt a $15 minimum wage.
“I am shaking here tonight because I am going to be forced to lay people off,” he said, according to an account in the Washington State Wire. “I’m going to take away their livelihood. That hurts. It really, really hurts. . . . And what I am going to have to do on Jan. 1 is to eliminate jobs, reduce hours — and as soon as hours are reduced, benefits are reduced.”
SeaTac, a community around Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, went ahead with its plan, becoming, on Jan. 1, the first jurisdiction in the nation to set a $15 minimum wage, according to the labor movement. And Ostrander’s hotel, the Cedarbrook Lodge? It went ahead with a $16 million expansion that adds 63 rooms, a spa — and jobs….
…“SeaTac is proving trickle-down economics wrong,” says David Rolf, the Service Employees International Union official who helped lead the $15 effort in SeaTac and Seattle, “because when workers prosper, so do communities and businesses.”
Meanwhile in San Diego, the Minimum Wage Battle Continues
Meet Ivan Jimenez. He’s Fast food worker who dreams of getting an education but can’t afford to do that when he’s helping to provide for his sisters.
The Woman the NSA Fears Most is Coming to Town
The American Civil Liberties Union and the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy are hosting a talk with Cindy Cohn. Legal Director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation this Wednesday, September 10th at 5:30 pm.
It’s being billed as a conversation with “The Woman the NSA Fears the Most.” Unlike most the talking heads you’ll see on TV, she has actual experience litigating cases that involve national security and privacy issues.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is at the vanguard of groups seeking to protect citizen rights in this age of Big Brother writ large.
The program will be at California Western School of Law, (New Location) 350 Cedar Street, San Diego. RSVP via https://www.acslaw.org/
On This Day: 1952 – The Ernest Hemingway novel “The Old Man and the Sea” was published. 1965 -The United Farm Workers union began the historic national grape boycott and strike, Delano, Calif. 1974 – President Ford granted an unconditional pardon to former President Nixon.
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