California Abandons Plan for 50 percent Oil Reduction

Published September 11, 2015

In what can only be seen as a significant setback for California environmentalists, Gov. Jerry Brown and Senate Democrats scrapped a plan to cut in petroleum use in the state by 50 percent by 2030 — a centerpiece of California’s emissions legislation. The petroleum cut was one part of a larger plan intended to result in an 80 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 1990 levels by 2050. California’s ambitious program had become a showpiece for environmentalists across the United States. 

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and his allies in the Senate blamed an intense campaign against the mandate by the oil industry for its failure. 

‘Rationing, Vehicle Bans’ Threatened

The measure passed the Democratic-controlled Senate but faced almost certain defeat in the state Assembly. Although Democrats also control the lower house, Assembly Democrats tend to represent economically struggling parts of the state. The assembly heeded warnings a mandated 50 percent reduction in oil use would result in higher fuel and electricity costs and could possibly even lead to fuel rationing and bans on sport utility vehicles. 

Kevin de Leon (Los Angeles) the Senate Democratic leader and main sponsor of the bill said he would remove the petroleum requirement from it while leaving two other sections in place, one mandating half of all the state’s energy come from renewable resources by 2030, and the other measure to doubling the energy efficiency in older buildings. 

Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno), lead opposition to the petroleum measure in the assembly. Perea announced he would support the revised bill, Senate Bill 350, calling it a compromise. “S.B. 350 will set California apart as a leader in climate change policy and will go a long way in reducing emissions in areas like the Central Valley that suffer from some of the worst air quality in the nation,” Perea said. 

Despite his defeat on the mandated petroleum cut, Gov. Brown was unchastened, telling reporters he would use his executive powers to continue to force reductions in California’s greenhouse gas emissions. “Oil has won the skirmish, but they’ve lost the bigger battle,” Brown said. “Because I am more determined than ever to make our regulatory regime work for the people of California: cleaning up the air [and] reducing petroleum … over the coming decades.” 

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, applauded the decision to drop the oil reduction mandate saying “Californians are best served by inclusive energy policy and by a legislative body that retains authority on issues so critically important to jobs, communities and our way of life,” according to the New York Times.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., ([email protected]) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.