“This was retail politics and oil lost,” was how Adrienne Alvord of Union of Concerned Scientists summed up the stunning environmental victory Tuesday in the California legislature, a victory which cemented the state’s commitment to a 40 percent reduction in climate pollution by 2030.
It’s not accidental that states providing climate leadership are the states with the biggest clean energy sectors, including California.
Only a few weeks ago there was a strong consensus that the oil industry, by spending millions of dollars on behalf of a cadre of moderate Democrats in the Assembly, had blocked just such a doubling down on the state’s existing 2020 goals. For the oil industry, victory was an existential necessity. Only by holding future climate commitments hostage could the industry hope to get Gov. Brown to abandon the state’s existing mandate that by 2020 the carbon content of fuels be cut by 10 percent.
As a practical matter, the requirement means roughly 20 percent of California’s more vehicles will be driving on something other than oil—electricity, natural gas or biofuels.And oil knows it cannot withstand a competitive transportation fuels market. Once California creates such a market and builds businesses that can produce low carbon fuels at scale, fuels competition will go global and oil’s empire will wither.