WSPA Lies: Oil Companies Are At It Again… And California Is The Target

, former director, California & Western States | August 19, 2015, 11:15 am EDT
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This month my mail has included a handful of very sad and frustrating reminders of what a heavy hit truth and integrity can take when oil profits come into play, and I’m not alone.

All over California, people are receiving very expensive-looking full-color, multi-page mailers and being subjected to radio spots announcing something called the California Gas Restriction Act of 2015. These turn out to be part of a massive and highly dishonest oil company campaign denouncing one of the best and most exciting bills that has been considered by the California legislature in a decade. The bill, SB 350 (De León-Leno), is actually titled the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015 and what it actually does is increase California’s share of electricity from renewable sources to 50%, increase building energy efficiency 50%, and cut California’s use of oil in half through programs that enable a combination of new technologies, vehicle efficiency, and better planning.

But you wouldn’t have any idea of this from the oil company ad campaign—one of the most extreme examples of fossil fuel-interest misinformation I’ve ever seen. State voters are being bombarded with this deceptive information through a huge, multi-million dollar PR campaign that has nothing to do with the facts and everything to do with protecting oil company revenue, as the campaign is focused entirely on the petroleum use reduction provisions of the legislation.

An oil company front group

The ostensible source of this barrage is the “California Drivers Alliance” but the fine print reveals that the source is actually something called WSPA. For those of you who may not have heard, WSPA (pronounced “wiss-puh”) is the Western States Petroleum Association, the main oil industry lobbying arm in the western United States. The “California Driver’s Alliance” is one of their many well-documented astroturf groups that have been littering mailboxes and air waves in the western states for several years now with scare-tactics on how climate policies like cleaner fuels and vehicles are going to be the ruin of the economy.

Last year, for example, “California Drivers Alliance” had another campaign they called “Stop the Hidden Gas Tax”. Their 2014 pitch to state motorists was that on January 1st, 2015, when transportation fuels began to be subject to cap provisions of California’s climate law, gas prices would go up as much as 76 cents per gallon. They used this claim to try, unsuccessfully in the end, to persuade the Legislature to roll back implementation of the fuel carbon cap. In fact, January 1st came and went, fuels went under the cap, and gas prices actually went down, due to both too much supply and too little demand on a global level.

Well, now the oil industry’s “California Drivers Alliance” is back and on the warpath against SB 350. They have developed a new, and even more dishonest, set of claims and scare tactics to fight this legislation, claiming that the bill will give a state agency the authority to ration gas, restrict driving, impose fines on minivans, monitor driving habits, and other claims that have no basis in fact but are intended to stir up fear and paranoia. Clearly the goal is to make voters sufficiently alarmed by this hail of misleading and just plain false information to pressure lawmakers to reject SB 350’s much-needed policies to reduce carbon pollution along with our use of price-volatile oil.

To be absolutely clear, the state does not have the authority to implement any of these “big brother” policies that WSPA is claiming, and SB 350 doesn’t give the state this authority—but that hasn’t stopped WSPA from making up their own “facts”, including a new title for the bill.

Reducing oil demand, lowering prices

The real impact of the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015 will be to strengthen and accelerate clean transportation technologies and policies we already have: electric vehicles, low-carbon fuels, vehicle efficiency, and better transportation planning. These strategies have proven very successful in reducing our demand for oil and creating a suite of cleaner, money-saving vehicle and transportation options that reduce pollution, vehicle operating costs, and consumption of fossil fuels.

This is good for both public health and people’s pocketbooks—UCS research has already shown how these policies are saving consumers money now and will save more in the future. At the same time, gasoline demand has been fairly flat over the past decade and is projected to go down over the next decade, in large part thanks to the combination of clean transportation measures we have in place that would be increased and accelerated under SB 350. Lowering demand will create more downward pressure on gasoline prices. No wonder the oil industry is resorting to a no-holds-barred strategy—these policies are costing them real money!

So, in the end, the simple truth that explains all of WSPA’s lies about SB 350 is that the legislation, while good for people, is bad for oil companies.

The WSPA campaign is very aggressive, and some lawmakers are getting nervous. We need to fight back, and hard. We need to let our lawmakers know that we are not fooled by WSPA’s lies, and that we want them to support the public’s interest, not oil company interests. Make your voice heard. If you are a California voter, please look up your state Assembly member’s phone number at this website, and then call their offices to say that you support SB 350 and SB 32 because it will be a critical law to reduce carbon pollution dramatically over the next decades. Let them know that you want them to support what’s good for the people of California, and reject WSPA lies.

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  • Living in the real world

    Passing this ill-conceived bill will surely drive even more business out of California. Fuel is already the most over-taxed and expensive in the Union — exercise compassion for a moment and think of the ill effect on students, families and undocumented workers already struggling to stay in state. Please don’t be so ideologically driven that you inadvertently contribute to the further crushing of this great state’s once vibrant economy. Oil companies are not your enemies (and I don’t have a horse in this race). I’m sorry to say that some of us out here in the real world have to live with the consequences of nakedly self-serving utopian thinkers that pass mindless legislation like this.

  • vf6cruiser

    the “global warming” hoax is hauled out for everything…….cutting gas usage by half would destroy the economy of California for sure, which is the aim of socialists everywhere……….I say drill all over and let’s get Alaska online too……….

  • Ellep

    I’m stunned at the people who don’t seem to mind giving up rights…how many more restrictions on your behavior are you willing to give up? Light bulbs, speech, food, now driving? What are you, crazy?

  • ProtectOurWilderness

    Email or call your representatives. Remind them that they work for US NOT the OIL industry and we want them to support SB 350! Don’t waste another minute! PLEASE do it NOW!!!

    • Miss Information

      I have contacted my representatives and asked them to NOT support the legislation known as SB350.

  • Edward Christophersen

    “Scientists” have become guns for hire. Big Oil buys their “science”, Big Government Tools buy their “science”, and all of us peasants pay for it with our taxes and gas prices. Today’s “science” is tomorrow’s urban legend.

  • find your legislator
    Then pick up the phone.

  • James

    Keep up leading California. The nation is counting on you!

  • Great job, Adrienne. I’ve posted your blog on our foundation’s “news” section, What’s the Buzz. … We feel that the state can’t reach its petroleum-reduction targets without expanding the adoption of E85 and flex-fuel vehicles. State seems fixated on EVs and hydrogen, which are a great path to zero emissions in the future, but won’t help in the near term.

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  • Taiko69

    SB 350 is necessary if we are to meet the GHG reduction targets in AB 32. The oil companies backed a proposition several years ago that would have effectively killed AB 32; fortunately, the voters rejected it. Also fortunately, most state legislators from urban areas in California know it would be political suicide to be seen as anti-environmental.

    • CharliePeters

      California GMO fuel ethanol mandate stink

      * Do you want $2 Gasoline at the pump?

      * Do you want clean air and water?

      GMO-Ethanol waiver and elimination of E-85 flex fuel credit can cut our ozone & CO2 transportation pollution over 50%

      Let’s improve performance of CA Climate change law AB 32 (Pavley) in 2015 for future generations

  • Anthony

    Until the legislature starts holding big oil’s feet to the fire for charging us $1 more than every other state, I am against any more bills to charge more for gas. Politicians can not just introduce more legislation to up the price of gas without regulating the profits of refineries.

    • Harold

      We pay around a buck more because of taxes. Both of these bills will just send california further down the toilet. It’s at the edge of the cesspool these 2 bills with drop it in. Global warming is a joke . Educate yourself and follow the money on green energy. Ask your assembly ember if they have investments in green energy. You all are so gullible.