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Gov. Jerry Brown is no climate action hero

November 15, 2017

By Paul Homewood


h/t Stewgreen


It appears that Moonbeam is not whiter than white after all!



Bonn, Germany

Gov. Jerry Brown seemed surprised by what greeted him at the United Nations climate conference in Germany on Saturday. Less than a minute into his remarks, Californians living near fracking, oil refineries and Aliso Canyon stood up and decried the destruction that Brown’s industry-pandering fossil fuel polices have had on their lives.

I bellowed with them, our collective words silencing the audience. Met with demands of “keep it in the ground” from Richmond’s refinery communities, Brown yelled back, “Let’s put you in the ground so we can get on with the show here.”

I was shocked by Brown’s disrespectful and condescending retorts, but even more so by the crowd that cheered him on. Even at a climate change conference, the stories of impacted communities fell on deaf ears.

Many are desperately holding onto hope that Brown will fill the Trump-sized hole in the nation’s climate leadership. But the truth is that his rhetoric on global warming hides his support for aggressive oil and gas extraction in our state. California should not be held up as a shining example for other states and countries.

Many don’t know that California is the third-largest oil-producing state, or that oil companies extract millions of barrels every year of some of the dirtiest oil on the planet, far worse for our climate than Canada’s notorious tar sands oil.

Even as Brown dons his climate hero cape, he’s not curbing oil extraction. California regulators issue thousands of new drilling permits each year, including a projected 2,600 new wells a year in Kern County for decades to come.

To avert a climate catastrophe, it is urgently necessary to keep oil in the ground. Yet with toothless regulations and tax breaks, California rolls out the red carpet for oil and gas development.

California and Pennsylvania are the only oil-producing states that do not levy a tax on extraction. Brown administration officials are relentlessly seeking exemptions from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act to allow oil companies to dump toxic fluids into underground water supplies.

Brown has pressured regulators to speed up permitting for oil companies, firing officials who did not comply. He has refused to ban fracking despite its use of toxic chemicals and the fact that it is fundamentally incompatible with fighting climate change. And he has failed to shut down the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility, where the largest methane leak in U.S. history forced thousands to flee their homes.

Compounding the climate damage, many California oilfields operate dangerously close to homes and schools, emitting air pollutants that cause asthma, cancer and other health problems. Fourteen percent of Californians live within a mile of an oil or gas well. Drilling occurs disproportionally in low-income communities already choked by pollution.

The local and global damage from California’s dirty oil production demand nothing less than a rapid phase-out within the next several decades. California must ban fracking and halt permits for new drilling, fossil fuel infrastructure and oil field expansion. The state should eliminate subsidies and use the money to transition to clean energy, invest in public transportation and ban the sale of fossil fuel vehicles by 2025.

True climate leadership starts at home. Brown, despite his global hype, is failing this test.

Jean Su is the associate conservation director and a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. She can be contacted at


For all of Jerry Brown’s virtue signalling, California still relies heavily on natural gas and nuclear for most of its electricity (50% and 10% respectively).

Hydro has also long been an important contributor, with 12% last year. However, drought years make this a less reliable source, as we saw in 2015 when its contribution dropped to 6%.

Wind and solar still only provide 7% and 10%.



Perhaps even Brown realises that you cannot run California on sunbeams and the vagaries of the wind.

  1. Joe Public permalink
    November 15, 2017 11:14 am

    Complementary posting, considering Roger Andrews over at Euan Mearn’s place earlier today posted an essay on the implications of ‘too much’ solar:

    “The California Duck Curve isn’t confined to California”

    The California Duck Curve is causing concern among California’s utilities, who wonder whether they will be able to ramp generation up quickly enough to meet evening peak demand when all the new solar capacity California plans to add over the next few years comes on line.

  2. November 15, 2017 12:40 pm

    The opinion of many of us in the eastern United States who have had to live with the nutty California mandates which eventually reach us in the form of legislation and regulations: go freeze in the dark.

    • thedude permalink
      November 15, 2017 3:22 pm

      Most Californians feel the same as you do.

  3. November 15, 2017 4:01 pm

    ‘To avert a climate catastrophe, it is urgently necessary to keep oil in the ground.’

    Kiss goodbye to man-made fertilizers then.

  4. November 15, 2017 6:16 pm

    And presumably Jean Su sailed to Germany on a yacht? Not clear whether there is the usual hypocrisy going on here.

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