The oil barons of Texas would like you to dance.
It is apparently getting trickier to make money refining low grade crude oil into gasoline to sell to car loving Californians. We’ve accepted small and efficient cars in a big way. Hybrids fill our highways and electric vehicles, our future. We were the first state with its own global warming policy – the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.
That policy, also known as AB32, attempts to reduce the amount of carbon spewed into earth’s atmosphere from our 25 million cars and trucks. We made a good start on this by requiring every gallon of gasoline sold in California to include a percentage of non-petroleum-based ethanol.
Last year, after the ethanol-bubble start-up VeraSun went bankrupt, the country’s largest independent oil refiner, Valero, swooped in and snapped up much of its ethanol refinery fleet for pennies on the dollar. Those plants looked like a sure bet for Valero, since Congress had passed a law requiring the whole country to follow California’s lead and include ethanol in the gasoline in all 50 states.
There was just one problem. Ethanol is not such a good idea for replacing fossil fuels. When it is made from crops such as corn grown in conventional agribusiness methods, it actually puts more carbon in the air than the gasoline it replaces. Some critics charge this converts crops the hungry world needs for food into motor fuels for the industrialized world.
No problem perhaps, if you’re from a farm state and wield tipping power in the US Senate.
But AB32 was adopted to protect our health and climate, not anyone’s short term profits. It ordered the chemists at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to add up all the carbon emitted in the making of the ethanol and then set rules to make sure it would not actually make things worse.
Yes, as the leading air quality technology (and gas consuming) state, California can do that. And when California leads on air quality, other states quickly follow.
Valero’s corn ethanol refinery bargains suddenly began to look a little less valuable.
Not being the kind of oilmen who cheerfully take a profit haircut, Valero decided to fight back with a political strategy that relies on spending millions to get Californians so confused and worried about their jobs that they’ll vote against their own clean air laws. They and their oil refining friends at Tesoro are wagering millions of dollars to qualify another ballot proposition to bamboozle voters to slow the tempo of reform.
Let’s not be fooled. California is leading the way to a brighter more sustainable energy future, building renewable energy plants, a bullet train, and the statewide infrastructure to support alternate fuels and electrified transportation. True, it takes money to make money, but we know where our future prosperity and the good jobs for our children will come from: Advanced and clean technology investments, in solar, wind, and geothermal energy; and not from pumping more carbon polluting gas.
When those refinery guys with the profit-boosting proposition come and ask for your support to suspend AB32, just say no thanks. California has a better plan, and we’re sticking to it.