California continues to lead on climate.


On Wednesday, California lawmakers passed a pair of closely watched climate change bills.

One bill, SB 32, extends AB 32, California’s landmark global warming bill of 2006 that requires the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 (which we are totally rocking, BTdubs). With 2020 in the not-too-distant future, people were asking, “what next?” The answer: SB 32, which sets a new target for reducing emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

The companion bill, AB 197, gives lawmakers more oversight of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the agency charged with writing regulations to achieve the targets. AB 197 also includes a provision requiring the agency to focus more onslashing emissions from local refineries and manufacturers.

The passage of the bills means that Californians can maintain our trailblazing climate policy street cred.


It sure isn’t. The oil industry revved up its front group machine leading up to the vote on the bills to try to sway the hearts and minds of Californians and lawmakers. Among their tactics:

  • The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), a trade association that acts as a shield protecting the oil companies from criticism while fighting popular clean air rules, said they doubted the emission reduction targets in SB 32 targets were “achievable.”
  • Californians for Affordable and Reliable Energy (CARE) (a WSPA-funded front group that worked against AB 32, the low carbon-fuel standard, and California’s renewable portfolio standard) came out of the woodwork and argued that SB 32 gave too much authority to CARB and questioned the success of California’s climate policy to date.
  • The California Driver’s Alliance, a WSPA-funded front group created to fight transportation fuels coming under cap-and-trade, took out a full-page ad in the Sacramento Bee calling AB 32 “unproven” and claimed SB 32 would lead to the “rise of bureaucrats.”
  • Powering California, a front group of Occidental Petroleum’s spinoff company California Resources Corp. (yes, that’s complicated on purpose), created a series of flashy videos promoting fossil fuels as part of “the fabric of America,” criticizing clean energy, and featuring feel-good man-on-the-street interviews with paid actors touting California’s oil and gas industry.


Nope. First off, AB 32 is proven. Here are a couple stats based on true things (are you listening, Big Oil?):

  • While the oil industry would love for you to believe that clean air laws are contributing to unemployment, the opposite is true. California has well overtwo times more jobs in the clean energy economy than in the oil industry — and the state is poised to add more.
  • California’s clean energy and climate programs are saving households money. Meanwhile, the oil industry made $10 billion in windfall profits in the past year and a half — while Californians are suffering from mysteriously highgas prices.
  • California’s emissions are dropping — and our economy is getting stronger. In fact, California has overtaken France as the world’s sixth-largest economy.
  • California’s climate policies are helping address the disproportionate impacts pollution has on disadvantaged and low-income communities. SB 535guarantees that at least 25 percent of the billions of dollars generated through AB 32 are earmarked specifically for climate investments benefitting disadvantaged communities.
  • Climate policies are reducing pollution — and health care costs. They’re expected to save more than $23 billion in societal damages, including $8.3 billion in respiratory health impacts by 2025.

What’s more, SB 32 doesn’t lead to the rise of the bureaucrat — it just extends the same powers CARB has had for the last decade. And now, with the passage of AB 197, the legislature will have more oversight of CARB.


The oil industry and its minions have warned that doom and gloom would result from California’s climate policies FOREVER. And they have been WRONG. Here are a couple reminders:

  • WHAT THEY SAID: “… [Cap-and-trade] would raise energy costs, harm the economy and impact California’s competitiveness.” FEBRUARY 2013 | MERCURY NEWS
  • WHAT HAPPENED: California’s economy is thriving and per capita carbon emissions have dropped 17% since 1990. MAY 2014 | 2014 GREEN INNOVATION INDEX, NEXT 10
  • WHAT THEY SAID: “These policies will create a large but hidden tax on families and will add new burdens to the fragile state economy.” JULY 2012 | BLOOMBERG
  • WHAT HAPPENED: Per capita annual income in California is estimated to have increased by $1,700 in 2014, to $50,338. JANUARY 2015 | BLOOMBERG
  • WHAT THEY SAID: “This poses great risks to manufacturers and other firms.” JULY 2012 | 2014 STATE MANUFACTURING DATA TABLE, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MANUFACTURERS
  • WHAT HAPPENED: California manufacturing leads the nation, with the highest total manufacturing output of any state. The manufacturing sector has grown in the past year and is projected to continue to do so in 2015–2016. Prior to 2010, before AB 32 began having positive economic impacts, the sector was in a state of decline for a decade. 2014 STATE MANUFACTURING DATA TABLE, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MANUFACTURERS
  • WHAT THEY SAID: “Small business will get hit from all sides. Consumers will have less money…” JULY 2012 | BLOOMBERG
  • WHAT HAPPENED: The California economy expanded in 2014 by almost every measure and is set to overtake Brazil as the world’s seventh-largest economy, with even stronger growth anticipated from 2015–2017. JANUARY 2015 | BLOOMBERG


At the risk of editorializing, Big Oil is scared. For a long time, the fossil fuel companies had a monopoly on energy. Now, as renewables are reaching cost parity with fossil fuels and people are realizing we don’t need to be addicted to costly, dirty, climate-altering energy, the oil industry sees the only way to keep control is by spending lots of money to defeat clean energy legislation.

California is a trend-setter when it comes to energy policy. Our leadership has shown that strong climate policies can improve public health, bolster the economy, create jobs, address equity and help combat climate change, which we need to start doing big time.

And, despite Big Oil’s constant lobbying and fear-mongering tactics, California keeps passing legislation that favors the health of its residents, economy and the climate over industry interests (in addition to SB 32 and AB 197, California has recently passed legislation expanding clean vehicle programs, reducing vehicular air pollution, and setting strong renewable energy targets).

California’s success has spurred climate policy in other statehouses, includingWashington and Oregon. And as other states see our continued success, they’re more like to adopt laws that will help them break free of Big Oil, too. That must be terrifying to an industry that has grown used to being the most profitable in the world, ever.


There are still questions about our climate policy future. We have a new target — but we’re not completely sure how we’re going to get there. We’ve gotten where we are today through cap-and-trade, in which industry buys permits that allow them to pollute. Now cap-and-trade is facing a lawsuit (fueled by the oil industry and its cronies) claiming it represents an unconstitutional tax. We smell another fight. Watch this space.