Oil-Industry Document Reveals Plans to Fight Clean-Energy Initiatives

SAN JOSE, Calif. (San Jose Mercury News/TNS) -

The West’s leading trade group for the oil industry has collaborated with, and in some cases funded, an array of groups to combat what it calls “aggressive anti-oil initiatives,” according to a presentation obtained by climate activists and shared with the San Jose Mercury News.

The 32-page document lists 16 groups that the Western States Petroleum Association is working with to influence public opinion and public policy in California, Oregon and Washington, including groups such as “Californians Against Higher Oil Taxes,” “Oregonians for Sound Fuel Policy” and “Washington Consumers for Sound Fuel Policy.”

To climate activists, the power point presentation lays bare, in the starkest of terms, the industry’s efforts to scuttle the West’s groundbreaking global-warming laws.

“WSPA’s metastasizing colony of anti-clean energy front groups is a startling reminder of the length to which the oil industry will go to protect their market share,” wrote Merrian Borgenson of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

To WSPA, the power point presentation is no big secret — and neither is the fact that it is involved in several business and consumer coalitions, some of which it supports financially.

“I find it fascinating that a handful of gullible news reporters have been convinced this was a ‘leaked’ document that reveals WSPA’s secret formula for world domination,” wrote WSPA President Cathy Reheis-Boyd in a blog post Nov. 25. “WSPA has always recognized the urgent need to address climate change, including the role that fossil fuels play in global warming. But that, of course, has never been the question. The question is what to do about it — how to transition to a lower carbon energy future without unnecessarily harming our economies, our businesses and our citizens.”

California, Washington and Oregon are charging forward on a host of climate-change regulations that impact the oil industry.

One key issue is California’s expanding cap-and-trade program, a cornerstone of the state’s landmark global-warming law, known as AB 32, that was signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006. Under the program, the state sets an overall emissions “cap” for individual California companies that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases. Those that reduce emissions below their cap can sell or trade their unused allowances to companies that exceed their limits. If the system works as designed, the most efficient companies will be financially rewarded, emitters will pay and greenhouse gases will be dramatically reduced.

On Jan. 1, the program will expand to include diesel, gasoline and other transportation fuels, which the California Air Resources Board estimates are responsible for roughly 40 percent of the greenhouse-gas emissions in the state.

Legal efforts to delay bringing fuels under the cap have largely stalled, so the oil industry and its allies are taking their campaign to the public, warning that the regulations will cost jobs and raise prices at the pump. A group called the California Drivers Alliance is urging state officials to “put the breaks on the hidden gas tax”; the alliance is one of the groups funded by WSPA.

On Monday, California Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, and state Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, introduced the “Affordable Gas for California Families Act,” which would exempt transportation fuels, including natural gas, from the cap-and-trade program.

Gasoline prices are the lowest they’ve been in five years, averaging $2.82 per gallon the week before Thanksgiving — 47 cents lower than a year ago. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says that falling crude-oil prices, robust U.S. and Libyan production, and weakening expectations for the global economy have reduced oil prices. But global oil markets are notoriously volatile.

“Gasoline prices are low because internationally supply exceeds demand,” said Dave Clegern of the California Air Resources Board. “History shows that this situation is temporary, and world oil prices will climb once again. The only way to keep our costs low over the long term is to reduce our dependence on petroleum.”

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WSPA Campaigns and Coalitions

1. Californians for Energy Independence

2. Californians Against Higher Oil Taxes

3. Concerned Mineral Owners of California

4. Kern Citizens for Energy

5. Fueling California

6. California Fuel Facts

7. Californians for Affordable & Reliable Energy

8. Oregonians for Sound Fuel Policy

9. Tank the Tax

10. AB 32 Implementation Group

11. Save Our Jobs

12. Fed Up At The Pump

13. Washington Consumers for Sound Fuel Policy

14. Californians Against Higher Taxes

15. California Drivers Alliance

16. “Local Hydraulic Fracturing Campaigns”

Source: WSPA Priority Issues power point presentation from Nov. 11, 2014