POLITICS

Big Oil Tanks California Measure To Cut Petroleum Use In Half

"Oil has won the skirmish. But they've lost the bigger battle," pledges Gov. Jerry Brown.

California lawmakers pulled a measure calling for a 50 percent reduction in oil consumption from climate legislation Wednesday night, following staunch opposition from the industry.

SB 350, a bill from Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D) and Sen. Mark Leno (D), included a measure to cut petroleum use in half by 2030, along with provisions to improve the efficiency of buildings by 50 percent and increase the amount of energy the state draws from renewables to 50 percent. The bill passed the state Senate this summer and is currently up for debate in the Assembly, but the oil provision faced pushback from the industry.

The oil industry blanketed the state with television and radio ads decrying what it called the "California Gas Restriction Act." The opposition fed hesitance among lawmakers to approve the overall bill and prompted leaders to drop the oil provision so the other portions could pass before the end of the legislative session on Friday.

The removal of that provision is a big setback for progressive lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who championed the bill as part of the state's overall effort to address climate change.

"Oil has won the skirmish. But they've lost the bigger battle," Brown said at a press conference, the Los Angeles Times reported, "because I am more determined than ever."

De León also decried the state of affairs in a news conference Wednesday evening. "We reached for something grand and something doable while the world prepared to once again take its cues from California," he said. "But in the end -- with two days left -- we could not cut through the million-dollar smokescreen created by a single special interest with a singular motive and a bottomless war chest."

But de León indicated the legislature will take up the issue again. "Our resolve has not wavered one iota," he said. "SB 350 will still represent historic clean-air standards, fuel significant clean-energy job creation and extend California’s global leadership in the fight to meet the climate challenge. And we are never going to take our foot off the gas in our efforts to address the impacts of petroleum, the leading cause of greenhouse emissions."

While the oil industry lobbied against the bill, other businesses had lined up behind it. "It’s really disappointing to see the oil lobby kill the petroleum provision by sowing enough fear that a few key legislators got cold feet," Kirsten James, director of the California Policy Program at Ceres, which organized dozens of state businesses in support of the bill, told the Huffington Post.