George Schultz has a long history in politics, most notably as former president Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State. In those days he worked for a famously anti-environment president — one that, among other things, downsized the EPA, removed solar panels installed on the White House and opened the door to energy deregulation. But these days, George Schultz is on the other side of the fence, where, defying that age-old axiom, the grass actually is greener.
He has volunteered to be honorary co-chair of Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs in the battle against Big Oil’s attempt to obstruct California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, known simply as AB32. In 2006 that bill set the state’s renewable energy standard and catapulted California to the forefront of climate change action. Furthermore, the law, already enacted, will force oil companies to pay for pollution starting in 2011, and use the resulting funds to pay for clean energy rebates and incentives.
That has Texas oilmen shaking in their boots and quivering in anger, fearing that cap-and-trade legislation in California would pave the way for a national carbon tax of some sort, much like other environmental steps later implemented elsewhere, including vehicle emissions standards and energy efficient building codes.
So they formed the AB32 Implementation Group, a group ostensibly “working toward greenhouse gas emission reductions and enhancing California’s competitiveness,” but in actuality trying to cripple the landmark law. To that end, the oil companies are employing their well-known, well-practiced and cunningly dubious methods. So far they have spent $2 million to convince 800,000 people to sign on to a proposition euphemistically dubbed the California Jobs Initiative. This initiative would obstruct AB32′s implementation.
The truth is that the AB32 Implementation Group has nothing to do with implementing AB32. It is more about maintaining an unregulated, unhindered oil industry. But the truth can be hard to discern when standing up against Big Oil’s proven power to manipulate policy and populace, which makes it even more significant that a noted Republican statesman like George Schultz has signed on to help protect California clean energy.
“As a former Secretary of State, I see our dependence on foreign oil as one of the greatest threats to national security,” he told the Sacremento Bee, “and the Dirty Energy Proposition would undermine efforts to break that dependence.”
But the fight will not be easy. Oil companies have perhaps the best PR machine in the business, evidenced by their ability to gather 800,000 signatures for their initiative — a mysterious but very real success. They’ve also proven that they can and will come at it from all angles. One scary example is a recent, oil industry-funded NOVA spot on PBS, dubbed Energy: The Big Gamble, that was aimed at instilling a fear of clean energy in voters’ minds and ballots.
Schultz’s position is setting him apart from his Republican peers in California this election year. While Governor Schwarzenegger has been a friend to renewable energy, his proposed Republican successor, Meg Whitman, has vowed to delay implementation of AB32 if elected, which would be fully within her power. Indeed, judging by California’s history of setting clean energy precedents, the very future of America’s climate change movement could hinge on this year’s voting.
The Golden State continues to be the golden boy of clean energy. Stopping the AB32 Implementation Group from enacting their misleading initiative and ensuring the success of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, who openly supports AB32 as it stands now, are top priorities for George Schultz and Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs.
“This misguided proposition will seriously harm our effort to encourage the growing entrepreneurial ventures that hold the promise of important change toward cleaner energy,” said Schultz, adding that the initiative would derail “California’s innovative effort to stimulate movement toward a cleaner and more secure energy future.”