Inside California’s Capitol, the debate raged. A group of so-called moderate Democrats sought to block the passage of SB 350. This landmark climate bill would do three things: increase California’s building energy efficiency 50 percent by 2030, an excellent idea not drawing serious opposition; increase California’s use of renewable fuels 50 percent by 2030, an excellent idea drawing strong support from the cleantech industry, building trades, and many more; and cut petroleum use 50 percent by 2030, a most excellent idea cutting into the profits of Chevron and Occidental and OMG THE SKY IS FALLING WE ARE DOOOOMED THEY’RE COMING FOR YOUR MINIVAN, warn the deceptive mailers.
Who are these moderate Democrats? The cynical among us might call them “corporate Democrats” or “oil-drenched Democrats.” Dan Morain at the Sacramento Bee explains:
As near as I can tell, being a moderate has little to do with their stands on social issues, or their willingness to challenge the core of Democratic support, public employee unions; they aren’t.
Rather, the definition seems to revolve around a willingness to accept campaign money from oil, tobacco or anyone else, and their malleability when donors come calling.
I was one of throngs roaming the Capitol during the pressure cooker last week of session. Because no one knew my face, I was able to photograph a Chevron lobbyist writing a thank-you note to an Assemblymember immediately after the Assembly voted against the related SB 32 (the bill failed that vote, barely survived a second vote, and is now on the shelf til next year).
And when I stepped outside into the 108 degree weather, if the winds were right, I could pick up the smoke and the haze of the Rough fire, burning Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks far to the south. It’s been raging since July 31 and has burned nearly 140K acres over the last few weeks.
A so-called Democrat, Adam Gray (D-Merced), demanded that $550M/year be diverted from a $2.5B/year cap and trade fund for greenhouse gas emissions reduction to instead go to building dams. But it hasn’t rained in California in four years, this year’s snowpack is the smallest in 500 years, and empty dams make illusory promises.
As the chair of the Cal Dem Party’s environmental caucus, I tried circulating a pledge among party delegates that they would do what they could to block the party endorsement for any Assemblymember voting against SB 350. Word filtered up to party leaders Tuesday night, and the next thing that I knew, the Sacramento Bee stated:
Outgoing Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins of San Diego, where the ocean breeze cleanses the air, let her house off easy by failing to put SB 350 to a vote. That indecision gave the bill’s opponents the cover of not having to cast votes that would have defined them as siding with the oil industry.
Gov. Jerry Brown and Senate Pro Tem Kevin DeLeon did the only thing they could in the face of a co-leader who refused to let SB 350 come up for a vote: Wednesday afternoon they pulled
the petroleum reduction section from the bill.
The same day, the Butte fire began in Amador and Calaveras counties east of the Capitol. It’s burned 60,000 acres and destroyed 166 homes so far.
With the petroleum reduction section removed, Big Oil withdrew its opposition to SB 350, and the bill passed easily on Friday night. Lots of Democrats gave happy speeches on how they were doing something about climate change. Toasts were made and everyone who could left the Capitol for cooler climates.
Then the Valley fire flared up in Lake County, north and west of the Capitol. At least one person who couldn’t get out of her home has died. 585 homes have been destroyed.
I left the Capitol with the taste of ashes in my mouth.
To state the REALLY FUCKING OBVIOUS, a hotter, drier changed climate is a factor in hotter, bigger wildfires.
I successfully ran for chair of the Cal Dem Party’s environmental caucus a few years ago for the same reason that I started up Climate Hawks Vote: to build grassroots political power for the climate movement. This legislative session has made me question whether I can share the label “Democrat” with those who would burn California for the sake of Chevron campaign contributions. Join us at Climate Hawks Vote to take power back from oil-drenched Democrats.
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