What’s ‘Waste’ to the Oil Lobby

Big Oil must love income inequality and our country’s shocking racial wealth gap. The industry’s latest campaign aims to perpetuate these injustices while attacking California’s efforts against climate change.

The Western States Petroleum Association, lurking behind the front group “CARE” (Californians for Affordable and Reliable Energy), has launched a website claiming California wastes millions of dollars in its effort to reduce carbon pollution — a bogus claim.

Under California laws, big polluters must buy permits to emit climate-changing carbon into the air. That money, collected via state-run auctions, then goes to fund projects that further reduce pollution and promote clean energy and transportation. Thanks to a law that we sponsored, SB535, at least one-quarter of those funds must benefit disadvantaged communities with the worst pollution and most economic hardships — often low-income communities of color.

These reductions are in addition to emissions reduced by critical policies like the low-carbon fuel standard.

Those dollars are at work today: helping low-income families weatherize their homes, improving public transit, expanding solar power, paying for cleaner cars, trucks and buses, planting trees in urban areas, putting affordable housing near public transit, and more. That’s what the oil lobby calls “waste.”

The price of carbon at auction has hovered just under $13 per ton. Remember, that’s what polluters pay to continue polluting from existing factories, power plants and other facilities that burn oil, coal and gas.

The oil industry’s math geniuses have discovered that it costs more to build clean transportation and energy infrastructure than it does to keep using old, dirty facilities. In Big Oil’s twisted logic, that’s “waste.” Worse than comparing apples to oranges, they’re comparing apples to the cost of planting a new orchard.

That’s crazy. But it gets even worse when you look at the climate investments that the oil lobby calls “waste.”

For example, two of the eight projects its website slams involve putting affordable housing near public transportation. Here in the Bay Area, we understand the need for both affordable housing and transit.

We looked at one project funded by these climate investments, West Gateway Place in West Sacramento. This green-certified, walkable community will put affordable homes in close proximity to bike lanes, rail lines, bus lines, and car and bike shares. By promoting walking, biking and transit use, it will reduce carbon emissions enough to equal taking more than 140,000 cars off the road.

But that’s just the start. By providing low- and moderate-income families a decent, affordable place to live, these projects change lives. We spoke to Esther Robert, who lives in a nearby affordable housing development, having overcome struggles with addiction. “Because of affordable housing, I can be secure and OK and keep moving forward,” she told us. “If I didn’t have this place, my kids would have been in the (foster care) system.”

We must build a new, clean-energy economy if we are to survive. California has chosen to do so in the best way possible, by bringing its benefits to those who need it most.

If you’ve been impacted by air pollution, climate change, or benefited from California’s climate investments like the ones we’ve described, we invite you to share your story athttp://bit.ly/1XmaIRn