California Forum

Brown’s vision leaves space for oil industry in California’s energy future

A truck drives into the Valero Benicia Refinery in July 2017, as California Gov. Jerry Brown worked with legislators on AB 398 to extend the state’s market-based cap-and-trade program beyond 2020.
A truck drives into the Valero Benicia Refinery in July 2017, as California Gov. Jerry Brown worked with legislators on AB 398 to extend the state’s market-based cap-and-trade program beyond 2020. AP file

As the election season comes to a close, Californians are beginning to look ahead at how a new governor and Legislature will lead the fifth-largest economy in the world. But as we do, we should also pause for an appreciation of Gov. Jerry Brown.

Brown has been pragmatic, yet relentless, in his approach to environmental and economic issues. His leadership addressing climate change has been historic. California’s stringent environmental regulations have provided a blueprint for the rest of the world to follow to fight climate change with a market-based program such as cap and trade.

But this program will be successful in the future only if in his final few months Brown holds state regulators accountable to include cost-containment provisions – as the Legislature directed in Assembly Bill 398 – to protect Californians from unnecessary and potentially devastating cost increases.

In light of his leadership and tangible results, it is stunning that there are groups in this state that doubt his commitment to California’s environmental leadership. These voices serve only one purpose – to further the false and unhelpful belief that the environment and public health have to be enemies with economic prosperity and the oil and gas industry.

We reject that line of thinking, and we hope the next governor will do the same by ensuring that we are talking with each other and not over each other and providing an opportunity to chart a future together. If we miss the opportunity to collaborate and instead choose “bans” that would eliminate entire sectors of our economy, we’ll face even more challenges to our health, economic vitality and access to safe, affordable and reliable energy.

How the new governor chooses to approach energy and environmental policy – and the attention he pays to limiting adverse effects on small businesses and consumers – will have a profound impact on social justice, the environment, more than 368,100 oil and gas industry jobs and on continued opportunities for upward mobility.

We all want a bright energy future for our state. This happens when we all have seats at the table to bring new ideas and work together to solve problems. The oil and gas industry is part of any realistic sustainable energy future and offers knowledge, innovation and expertise. Oil and gas will remain a vital part of the energy mix for the foreseeable future, and while we may differ as to how long that will be, the fact remains that renewable energy alone cannot meet future energy demands.

Our industry is hopeful that the new governor will start discussions about our state’s energy future by finding points where we can all agree. We recognize there are tough choices to be made, but we must avoid extreme policy decisions that will only hurt Californians.

California’s next governor has an opportunity to bring new ideas and fresh perspectives to the effort Gov. Brown has led so effectively in four historic terms in office. Let’s continue this legacy; in fact, let’s work even harder, together, on environmental and economic policies that protect the environment while providing energy independence, good-paying jobs and reliable, affordable sources of energy to all Californians.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd is president of the Western States Petroleum Association and a participant in The Sacramento Bee/McClatchy Influencers series. She can be contacted at WSPAPresident@wspa.org. Find the series (with more Monday on the most important thing to watch for in the Nov. 6 election) at sacbee.com/influencers.

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