Anita Mangels, spokesperson for California’s Yes on 23 campaign, wants to get the message out that greenhouse gases emitted from oil refineries, coal plants, and motor vehicles are not “pollutants,” just “emissions.” Mangels is working to suspend California’s landmark global warming legislation, AB 32, on behalf of the Texas oil company-funded Proposition 23 campaign. In a gracious telephone interview with the Wonk Room, Mangels argued that the “semantics are important,” because Prop 23 supporters don’t want to be seen as promoters of pollution:
There’s a huge misconception about AB 32 and Prop 23 are about when it comes to “pollution.” The court made the attorney general rewrite the ballot, which originally talked about “polluters” and “pollution.” The judge said that’s not right because greenhouse gas reduction is not pollution. It is not in the same league as things that we have been dealing with for years like smog-forming pollutants.
Greenhouse gases — while they may be associated with global warming — have no direct impact on the environment or health in California. The nature of greenhouse gas emissions is not at all compatible with other emissions that have been subject to environmental laws.
I’m not using the word “pollutant.” We’re talking about “emissions. Language means a lot. You don’t see ballot labels being ordered to be changed by a judge very often. The semantics are important.
Although Mangels — a project director for the Woodward & McDowell ballot initiative lobbying firm — accurately described the judge’s decision on the ballot language, her conclusion is false. The U.S. Supreme Court recognized that greenhouse gases are pollutants by any reasonable definition in 2007. Greenhouse pollution not only raises sea levels, intensifies extreme weather, and causes heat waves and droughts, but also increases allergens and worsens the effects of other pollutants — all described in the Environmental Protection Agency’s endangerment finding.
Moreover, new scientific research by Mark Z. Jacobson, finds that carbon dioxide pollution is a two-fold killer — causing not just global warming but also forming “domes” that trap other pollutants in urban areas. Even if “CO2 in adjacent regions is not controlled,” Jacobson estimates, “reducing local CO2 may reduce 300-1000 premature air pollution mortalities per year in the U.S. and 50-100 per year in California.” Mangels claimed that greenhouse pollutants are “unlike localized emissions that have a tangible impact on the health and the environment — if you spend money on that, you can see a tangible result in that.” In fact, greenhouse pollutants are just like other pollutants — they make people sick, they kill ecosystems, and the less that’s emitted, the better.
In another demonstration of “semantics,” Mangels claimed that “our coalition members do not oppose AB 32.” The Yes on 23 campaign, bankrolled by Texas oil companies Valero and Tesoro, just wants to indefinitely postpone the legislation because “it would increase costs by billions of dollars for energy and would probably destroy a million or so jobs” — which would be bad when California has an “economic crisis.” Mangels did concede that some economic studies of AB 32 find that California’s net jobs would increase, but “there will be a handful of winners and everyone else will be their customers.”
When you cut through the greenwashed rhetoric of the “California Jobs Initiative” — the Yes on 23’s other name — all that’s left is yet another attempt by fossil fuel companies and their ideological allies to prevent the growth of a green economy.