California Forum

Another View: Oil industry doesn’t speak for low-income Californians

Orson Aguilar
Orson Aguilar

Californians aren’t buying the notion that the oil industry cares about low-income communities most impacted by pollution and poverty. (Collaboration needed, not harsh fuel limits”; Viewpoints, Oct. 4). Their deceitful campaign to weaken Senate Bill 350, the state’s newest, historic clean energy law, is more than enough evidence that the only thing the oil industry cares about is its bottom line.

The Western States Petroleum Association waged an unprecedented, no-expenses-spared effort to remove the provision in SB 350 to cut petroleum use. When all the lobbying reports are in, I suspect we will see record spending this year by those threatened by a clean energy future.

The petroleum association’s leader claims, “The voice of the people was heard.” Yet a recent Latino Decisions poll found 81 percent of Latinos in California strongly supported the exact goal the oil industry killed. There is nothing arbitrary about wanting to reduce our dependence on petroleum.

Fortunately, many lawmakers were not swayed by the oil industry’s familiar scare tactics and persevered to ensure that the law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday moves our state forward toward meaningful action on clean energy and climate change. While the petroleum association and its oil company members were successful in removing the petroleum-reduction component of SB 350, the final bill is a huge achievement for California and a model for other states and nations.

If you want to see how climate leadership is uplifting the most disadvantaged Californians, look no further than The Greenlining Institute’s new report profiling the neighborhood-level climate investments made possible by our state’s signature climate change law, Assembly Bill 32.

Through AB 32, California has generated close to $3 billion for projects that cut carbon pollution, and each year at least 25 percent of funds go to the most polluted parts of the state. These climate investments are making a difference. Take Roy Rivera of Sacramento, who is disabled and lives on a fixed income. He will save more than $800 this year from new solar panels he received at no cost. Or the Mendoza family of Stockton, who exchanged an inefficient 1984 Ford Ranger and got rebates to help them afford a Prius plug-in hybrid.

If the Western States Petroleum Association had its way, we would cease these investments in disadvantaged communities across the state. That would be reckless.

The next time the oil industry seeks “collaboration,” it should stop lecturing us and start listening to Californians, who support cutting poverty and pollution by any means necessary.

Orson Aguilar is president of The Greenlining Institute, a social justice advocacy nonprofit based in Berkeley.