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Another View: Consumers can’t afford a delay in cap-and-trade

There’s no harm in “honest discussion” about fuels, as The Sacramento Bee says in its editorial, “Pump prices will rise, and Senate should air details” (Aug. 17). But honesty involves getting the premise right – and honesty isn’t what the oil industry is offering. The question isn’t one of how much gas prices are going to go up. In fact, Assembly Bill 32 is written so that oil companies need not increase prices at all. If they do, that is something they are choosing to do.

They’ve had eight years to prepare for the inclusion of fuels in cap and trade – years that they could have put a portion of their enormous profits to developing biofuel blends and other clean alternatives to traditional gasoline. But rather than innovating, major oil companies are digging in their heels, ramping up million-dollar lobbying and PR campaigns, backpedaling on commitments to produce cleaner fuels – and now, making a last-minute plea to be exempted from the law.

The policies that Californians have put in place are delivering insulation from roller-coaster gas prices and a broader array of fuel choices. Thanks to improving vehicle efficiency and California’s clean air and clean fuel policies, drivers will save an average of $380 on fuel next year, and $850 per year by 2020. Already, California retailers sold 523 million fewer gallons of gasoline in 2012 than in 2009, despite a growing economy.

As the editorial mentioned, California voters weighed in on the oil industry’s role in reducing emissions with Proposition 23 – and voted overwhelmingly to move forward with the plan. Meanwhile, the costs of delay on clean air and climate change are formidable. Air pollution costs us an estimated $28 billion per year in economic and health costs in Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley. Consumers simply can’t afford to get mired in an endless cycle of debate and delay with the oil industry. We’ve heard their excuses before. We need to move forward.

As part of the oil industry’s latest offensive, they want us to believe they are concerned about the well-being of Californians struggling to make ends meet rather than the industry’s own bottom line. In reality, the oil industry is standing in the way of consumer savings. Fortunately, AB 32 is already delivering benefits to vulnerable communities on the front lines of climate change. In the next year, AB 32 will result in more than $200 million for disadvantaged communities. These funds will be invested in clean transportation, affordable housing, energy retrofits for low-income residents and other measures benefiting low-income consumers.

Now is hardly the time to put the brakes on AB 32. California consumers deserve better.