Tesoro Corp. and Valero Energy Corp., both of San Antonio, Tx., have spent a combined $1.5 million or 79 percent of the funds collected in an effort to overturn California’s AB 32, which seeks to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2020, and which would begin to go into effect in 2012. That would bring carbon emissions in the state down to levels not seen since 1990.
This may be only the beginning of a massive spending campaign by companies which have little or no economic interest in California, with one reporting estimating a potential budget of $150 million being spent to see the law overturned.
In a case of politics making strange bedfellows, California electricity producer PG&E, which has sometimes found itself opposing environmental groups, says it supports the law.
The coalition looking to overturn the measure, which passed in 2006, is led by the California Jobs Initiative (CJI). The Initiative says the law will cost California families $4,000 a year and 1.1 million jobs.
However, California’s non-partisan Legislative Analysts Office described those figures as “highly unreliable” and “essentially useless.” The law could also be a significant boon to many green tech and green energy companies, which could potentially seek to migrate to the state as energy supplies look to move away from carbon intensive generation technology, such as coal, to cleaner systems.
It could also provide significant advantages to companies that have already invested considerably in green energy platforms, companies like PG&E. Other corporations supporting the law, like Google and other Silicon Valley tech companies, say overturning it now could risk up to 500,000 such green tech jobs that would otherwise come to California.
The CJI said it is not seeking to overturn the law completely. The new ballot initiative, Proposition 23, would prevent AB 32 from being enacted until the state unemployment rate falls below 5.5 percent for four consecutive fiscal quarters.
Critics point out that has only happened three times since the 1970s, and with a current unemployment rate of more than 13 percent, it would effectively kill the legislation for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, oil companies like BP, Exxon and Shell have avoided giving money directly to the campaign. But these companies have been lobbying Governor Schwarzenegger regarding the manner in which the rules governing the law are designed and implemented, according to the Sacramento Bee. The Sierra Club said that the oil companies could end up having a significant voice in crafting, and potentially weakening, the rules, as they were able to do with cap-and-trade legislative drafts.
Although the legislation only effects California, which generates a relatively small amount of its electricity from coal, the measure could have a significant effect throughout the country, as California legislation often leads the way on rules changes by other states. Recently, 11 states adopted California’s fuel standards for vehicles and buildings.
California will also begin regulating the emissions of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) from electric utility equipment starting in 2011.