Friedman on The Terminator vs. Big Oil

Nate Lewis: “Nature is balancing its books every day. It was a record 113 degrees in Los Angeles the other day. There are laws of politics and laws of physics. Only the latter can’t be repealed.”

Californians from across the political spectrum are trying to raise money to defeat Prop 23, but the vote could be close. George Shultz, a former secretary of state during the Reagan administration, has taken a leading role in the campaign against Prop 23. (See:

“Prop 23 is designed to kill by indefinite postponement California’s effort to clean up the environment,” said Mr. Shultz. “This effort is financed heavily by money from out of state. You have to conclude that the financiers are less concerned about California than they are about the fact that if we get something that is working here to clean up the air and launch a clean-tech industry, it will go national and maybe international. So the stakes are high. I hope we can win here and send a message to the whole country that it’s time to put aside partisan politics and get an energy bill out of Washington.”

That’s Tom Friedman writing in his column today on Big Oil’s effort to kill California’s climate and clean energy laws, which CP has been closely tracking (click here for links).

Here’s more:

The Terminator, a k a the Governator, is not happy. And you shouldn’t be either.

What has Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California incensed is the fact that two Texas oil companies with two refineries each in California are financing a campaign to roll back California’s landmark laws to slow global warming and promote clean energy innovation, because it would require the refiners to install new emission-control tools. At a time when President Obama and Congress have failed to pass a clean energy bill, California’s laws are the best thing we have going to stimulate clean-tech in America. We don’t want them gutted. C’mon in. This is a fight worth having.

Here are the basics: Next month Californians will vote on “Prop 23,” a proposal to effectively kill implementation of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, known as A.B. 32. It was supported by Republicans, Democrats, businesses and environmentalists. Prop 23 proposes to suspend implementation of A.B. 32 until California achieves four consecutive quarters of unemployment below 5.5 percent. It is currently above 12 percent. (Sorry for all the numbers. Just remember: A.B. 32, good; Prop 23, bad.)

A.B. 32 was designed to put California on a path to reducing greenhouse gases in its air to 1990 levels by 2020. This would make the state a healthier place, and a more innovative one. Since A.B. 32 was passed, investors have poured billions of dollars into making new technologies to meet these standards.

“It is very clear that the oil companies from outside the state that are trying to take out A.B. 32, and trying to take out our environmental laws, have no interest in suspending it, but just to get rid of it,” Governor Schwarzenegger said at an energy forum we both participated in last week in Sacramento, sponsored by its energetic mayor, Kevin Johnson. “They want to kill A.B. 32. Otherwise they wouldn’t put this provision in there about the 5.5 percent unemployment rate. It’s very rare that California in the last 40 years had an unemployment rate of below 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. They’re not interested in our environment; they are only interested in greed and filling their pockets with more money.

“And they are very deceptive when they say they want to go and create more jobs in California,” the governor added. “Since when has [an] oil company ever been interested in jobs? Let’s be honest. If they really are interested in jobs, they would want to protect A.B. 32, because actually it’s green technology that is creating the most jobs right now in California, 10 times more than any other sector.”

No, this is not about jobs. As, a progressive research center, reported: Two Texas oil companies, Valero and Tesoro, “have led the charge against the landmark climate law, along with Koch Industries, the giant oil conglomerate owned by right-wing megafunders Charles and David Koch. Koch recently donated $1 million to the effort and has been supporting front groups involved in the campaign.”

The real joke is thinking that if California suspends its climate laws that Mother Nature will also take a timeout. “We can wait to solve this problem as long as we want,” says Nate Lewis, an energy chemist at the California Institute of Technology: “But Nature is balancing its books every day. It was a record 113 degrees in Los Angeles the other day. There are laws of politics and laws of physics. Only the latter can’t be repealed.”

Hear!  Hear!

Here are five things you can do to win this fight:

  1. Visit the “No on 23″³ website, learn the facts & sign up:
  2. Educate yourself on how California’s climate & energy laws have created companies & jobs:
  3. Tell your friends by email, on Facebook, at work, & everywhere else.
  4. Participate in the debate. Write letters to the editor and post comments on blogs & websites.
  5. Contribute (click here). The other side’s leader, right-wing California Assemblyman Dan Logue, has publicly said he expects the oil companies to spend $50 million.

10 Responses to Friedman on The Terminator vs. Big Oil

  1. mike roddy says:

    It’s not at all certain that Prop 23 will be defeated. We can expect a flood of oily TV and radio ads in the week before the election, filled with lies and scare tactics.

    Thanks to Tom Friedman for laying out the stakes. And thanks to Governor Schwarzenegger for being the only political leader in the entire country who is not afraid to call out the oil companies for what they are.

  2. Prokaryotes says:

    Nature’s economy shall be the base for our own, for it is immutable, but ours is secondary. An economist without knowledge of nature is therefore like a physicist without knowledge of mathematics.

  3. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The defeat of Proposition 23 appears, to my mind,unlikely. The reason is plain,in my opinion-the US is a plutocracy, where the rich always get what they want, by buying elections and the political process through ‘contributions’, media control and saturation advertising. You’ve had two hundred plus years of the situation pithily outlined by John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,ie ‘Those people who own this country are going to rule this country’.
    The USA has never been a ‘democracy’ in any meaningful sense. To make matters worse you have exported your kleptocratic,plutocratic system of crony capitalism throughout the world, under the ludicrous banner of ‘Freedom and Democracy’, which inevitably turns out to be a despotism under the violent misrule of a tiny compradore elite whose prime loyalty is to the Boss of Bosses in Washington. The time is ripe, not just for real democracy in the USA, and everywhere else, but also for an end to that chauvinism and jingoism that has characterised the USA and its delusions of superiority to the rest of the world. All of humanity is in this ghastly mess together.

    [JR: NO. I think it likely, if we keep pushing! Republicans have mismanaged their larger campaigns, especially Whitman, thereby energizing the Democratic base.]

  4. Zach says:

    Nate Lewis needs to go work for the White House (and/or a well-funded advocacy group). He makes the most compelling, accessible argument for how urgent an issue this is that I’ve seen. Particularly when it comes to communicating urgency as well as the practicality and feasibility of a solution. His basic justification – that this is unprecedented and that we don’t get a second chance – isn’t repeated often enough.

  5. Not A Lawyer says:

    Reuters/Ipsos poll out yesterday has Prop 23 at 37% Yes, 49% No, with 47% of voters saying AB 32 will create jobs.

  6. James Newberry says:

    An economic question for Professor Lewis:

    If $2 buys heat released/lost when a gallon of mined hydrocarbon material is oxidized (set on fire), then what is the social/environmental cost of its heating of earth due to some 10,000 times of radiative forcing, in comparison to combustion heat, during atmospheric lifetime of combustion product? $20,000?

    A process based on economic philosophy which says creation of carbonic acid gas is a good thing seems a bit distorted.

  7. peter whitehead says:

    Perhaps the laws of Physics SHOULD be repealed. A true Mad Hatter would not accept the left-wing idea that gravity must always pull things down. If enough right-minded patriots are elected to Congress, then ANY law can be repealed – gravity, entropy, health care. We must not give in to defeatist liberal scientists who have undermined liberty. Once the Law of Gravity is repealed, patriots will be able to float away to Cloud-Cookoo Land, or the Land of Oz, or any other place they like.

  8. Adams says:

    That last comment is hilarious! I hope you’re getting your voice out there Peter, because you got it nailed.

  9. Zach says:

    You’d never get the 60 votes needed to get the laws of physics repealed in the Senate.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Mr Whitehead’s modest proposal would, I believe, certainly pass i the US Congress if enough plutocrats saw some pecuniary advantage in repealing the laws of gravity. They might even be moved to take the usual action, ie buying the required number of ‘Representatives’ and ‘Senators’, mobilising their thought controllers and opinion leaders in the mass media and launching a large, brainwashing, PR campaign in the media, if they were convinced that it would increase their power and dominance in and over society. I ceased being amazed by how great the masters’ delusions of omnipotence and omniscience have grown, in the face of their transparent mediocrity, years ago. Nothing will ever surprise me again.