The worst environmental catastrophe in our nation’s history is unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, making two things more clear than ever to Californians: we must transition away from oil and develop cleaner forms of energy, and we must elect leaders here at home who will work to make this transition possible.
The Gulf spill is a terrible, but predictable consequence of our nation’s addiction to oil. Offshore drilling, response and clean up technology, as this catastrophe has proved, is anything but foolproof and accidents will always happen. In addition to polluting our air, our lungs and our planet with global warming pollution, fossil fuel extraction is fraught with enormous risks to fragile marine ecosystems.
Californians are all too familiar with the devastating consequences of offshore oil drilling. In 1969, a blow-out on a rig in the Santa Barbara Channel six miles offshore spewed more than three million gallons of crude into the channel and onto local beaches. The ecological disaster sickened and killed thousands of birds, seals and other marine life, including an estimated 10,000 birds.
Back then, the images of the oil-soaked wildlife and coastline sparked the modern day environmental movement. A decade later, President Carter’s Interior Secretary, Cecil Andrus, followed by James Watt in the Reagan Administration, proposed opening the nation’s coast to offshore drilling. This prompted a succession of Congressional moratoriums on new offshore oil leasing, with some exceptions including Alaska and much of the Gulf of Mexico.
Some California legislators and candidates for state and federal office continue to believe it is worth the risk to fishing and tourism industries, the health of our ocean and the beauty of our pristine coast to allow new offshore oil drilling. In fact, they tried to override a State Lands Commission’s decision rejecting a new offshore drilling proposal during the prolonged budget crisis last year, and were narrowly defeated in their quest to allow access to new drilling.
Offshore oil drilling continues to be a bad proposition off the California coast and we will keep up the fight against new proposals.
CLCV, along with dozens of environmental groups, supports bills introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by California Congressman John Garamendi and in the Senate by West Coast Senators including California’s Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. The West Coast Ocean Protection Act of 2010 would renew the moratorium on drilling that Congress allowed to lapse in 2008 during the Bush Administration.
The Gulf spill also hits home when we consider California’s leadership role in the clean technology energy sector. California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, also known as AB 32, is the first-in-the-nation law that is moving us away from polluting, dangerous fossil fuels. AB 32 has already attracted new investments in California and will generate billions of dollars in business in alternative fuel research and development while reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
AB 32 was authored by then Assembly-member, now state Senator Fran Pavley, a CLCV-backed lawmaker who we supported early in her career, and was passed by the environmental majority in the state legislature. Its policies have informed the national climate bill that was co-authored by California Congressman Henry Waxman and passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last summer as well as federal climate legislation now under consideration in the U.S .Senate.
But full implementation of AB 32 is threatened by the Dirty Energy Proposition, which is funded by Texas oil companies Tesoro and Valero and out of state coal interests. They’re part of the same “drill baby drill” doctrine that ignored the risks in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere, and ultimately sacrifices our environment, our health and economy, and our national security for big corporate profits. The Texas oil initiative backers are expected to spend millions on the ballot initiative in a deceptive attempt to keep us addicted to their polluting, dangerous product.
Right now it looks like they’ve spent enough money to get their Dirty Energy Proposition on to the November ballot. If they flood the airwaves with their polluted dollars and is pass their dangerous measure, it will stifle the billions of dollars in venture capital California is now receiving—approximately 60 percent of the clean tech venture capital that is being invested in the U.S. at this time—leaving us the dirty, oil-based economy. Finally, the Texas oil executives know that if they can kill clean energy laws here in California, they have a good shot at halting climate change legislation in the U.S. Congress.
CLCV and the environmental and clean technology communities—including some of California’s biggest employers like Google, eBay, and semiconductor manufacturer Applied Materials—are working together to fight back against the Dirty Energy Proposition.
In the November 2010 general election, we must do two things to protect California’s clean energy future and national leadership role: 1) defeat the proposition to kill our landmark clean energy law and 2) elect environmental champions at the local, state and national level. Through CLCV’s strategic, targeted campaign work, we will build a greener governor and a greener legislature, and re-elect Senator Barbara Boxer, a true environmental champion who will help pass climate legislation that affirms the goals of AB 32 as a national priority.
The environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is a tragic call to action: that now is the time to transition to clean, renewable energy. California continues to set the standard and we must maintain momentum to move the nation forward, not backward, on the path that simultaneously reduces our deadly addiction to oil and creates clean energy jobs in order to protect our environment, our economy, and our future.
– Warner Chabot, CEO and Ann Notthoff, Member, Board of Directors, California League of Conservation Voters