Global warming ballot battle comes to Oakland

About 50 protestors converged upon a Valero gas station in Oakland’s Uptown section this morning to call attention to a proposed ballot measure backed by oil companies to roll back California’s landmark greenhouse gas emissions law.

Activists from CREDO Action, the Courage Campaign, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club were among the crowd, bearing signs with slogans such as “Texas oil $ go home,” “Don’t mess with California, Texas,” “Stop killing the solution to pollution,” and “Clean air now.”

Valero protest 4-22-10 -- photo by Josh Richman

AB 32, the state’s global warming law, requires that California’s greenhouse-gas emission levels be cut to 1990 levels by 2020, a cut of about 15 percent from current levels; to that end, state authorities are working on formulating a “cap and trade” system in which California businesses would be able to choose between installing new equipment to clean up their emissions or buying emissions credits from those who do.

The “California Jobs Initiative” would suspend AB 32 until California’s unemployment rate – now at 12.6 percent – drops to 5.5 percent or below for four consecutive quarters; the measure’s proponents claim leaving the law in place will cost the state jobs it can’t currently afford to lose, while opponents claim leaving the law in place will actually create jobs in the burgeoning green technology sector. The proponents have until July 19 to gather valid signatures from at least 433,971 registered California voters in order to place the measure on November’s ballot.

At least about two thirds of the proposed measure’s major funding so far has come from oil companies, the latest including $300,000 last week from Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum Corp. and $100,000 from Texas-based Tesoro. Texas-based Valero put in $500,000 last month, hence the site of today’s protest.

“Most people have not heard about the dirty energy proposition, which is why we wanted to do this on Earth Day,” said Ian Kim, Green-Collar Jobs Campaign Director at the Ella Baker Center, adding California has taken a national lead on addressing global warming and “these Texas oil companies want to take that away to save their bottom line.”

“This is going to be probably one of the most expensive campaigns of the year,” Kim predicted, saying activists will need to aggressively raise money and stage grassroots events such as today’s to counter an advertising blitz by deep-pocketed big oil.

Anita Mangels, spokeswoman for the measure’s proponents, called the protest “absurd,” noting the activists picketed a taxpaying business that employs and serves Californians and already is subject to the nation’s strictest environmental laws. She also e-mailed a statement arguing that AB 32’s implementation will hit low-income communities hardest, as they spend a larger percentage of their household income on gas and utilities, while jeopardizing more than a million jobs without significantly impacting global warming. “That’s the dirtiest secret of all. The organizers of these protests should come clean and admit it.”

More, after the jump…

The Courage Campaign and CREDO Action have been gathering online pledges to boycott Valero while also raising money online for the campaign opposing the measure. Courage Campaign Chairman Rick Jacobs sent out a statement yesterday confessing he’s “a recovering oil company executive” – he was chief of staff to Occidental’s CEO, and later the company’s youngest-ever vice president.

“One of the reasons I left Occidental – or ‘Oxy,’ as a lot of folks call them – 20 years ago was because they were not being responsible to their shareholders or community,” he wrote. “So when I saw that Oxy was joining Valero to kill AB 32, I was disappointed but not really surprised. While the market now craves the green energy alternatives being fueled by AB 32, Oxy and its executives are prioritizing their obscene profits – and dirty energy – over our prosperity and environment.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • klem

    “The “California Jobs Initiative” would suspend AB 32 until California’s unemployment rate – now at 12.6 percent – drops to 5.5 percent”

    What?!! It will take 10 years before the unemploymnet rate gets that low! By that time the oceans will be 20 feet higher, glaciers will all be melted, the deserts will be dryer, National Geographic says people will starving and killing each other over scarce water resources. This is incredible! Employment should not even be part of the equation! Who cares about the unemployed, they can leave to find work somewhere else. They are nothing but lazy welfare mooches anyway.

  • AJ

    Hello the stations are not owned by the corp. It’s a franchisee ownership. The protesters are disrupting local level commerce & impeding free-market enterprise. Who came out that this idiotic idea? Fly out to Texas to protest at their HQ. Sierra has millions of donation $$. Oops it’s Earth Day shouldn’t burn jet fuel like Obama (Air Force One) & Joe Biden (Air Force Two) flying 250 miles (half trip to L.A.) to the same location (NYC). Example of how AB32 & its supporters are killing California’s economy!

  • M Leigh

    Ms. Mangels has the facts skewed. In no way will AB 32 hurt poor folks or folks of color. They are the folks most impacted by pollution and poverty. The only ‘people’ that AB32 hurts are those on the bankroll of big oil. Why else would OIL COMPANIES be footing the bill on this initiative?

  • MaxSmith

    only thing that will kill California’s economy is Oil companys from Texas getting involved in California politics. AB32 was historic, keep it alive!

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    California is a land of fruits and nuts–attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright

  • James D.

    Klem says: “oceans will be 20 feet higher, glaciers will all be melted, the deserts will be dryer, National Geographic says people will starving and killing each other over scarce water resources” 20 feet in 10 years!!! I am a geophysicist … no way. Water, unlike oil, iron, wood, food, etc. doesn’t get “used up” It just rains elsewhere. If CA wants to get its economy going, they could consider diverting part of the Klamath River (more water than the Colorado). How about diverting 10% of the Columbia.