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By: Eve Lanark

California Air Resources Board Breaks its Own Rules in Political Oil Deal

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) claims to operate on the premise of reducing air pollution in California, protecting the public from toxic air contaminants, and providing innovative approaches to complying with air pollution regulations. However, since the state-funded board was formed in 1967, CARB seems to have spent most of its time involved in fraud scandals and squandering public money. As Kill CARB has proven through analysis of the board’s activities, CARB is a company without scruples, and this year they’ve taken it even further by getting into bed with their supposed enemy. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), a trade oil group which includes oil giants such as BP PLC and Shell PLC, has long been against CARB and its initiatives. So why then, have CARB helped WSPA to insert language into Assembly and Senate bills that will prevent CARB from enforcing one of its own rules?

The ‘Clean Fuels Outlet’ Initiative

The CARB initiative that the deal with WSPA effects is the Clean Fuels Outlet, a measure aimed at providing fill-up stations for green vehicles throughout California. The Clean Fuels Outlet plan, as reported on E&E News, has existed for over two decades but mainly idled- though most likely spending a good chunk of public money in the process. The legislation, if approved, would mean that oil refiners and importers would have to help fund hydrogen fueling stations as soon as any region has up to 10,000 green vehicles.  

Making the Deal

Unsurprisingly the oil giants weren’t happy with this idea, and have made moves to cut the initiative down by going after the legislature, which CARB have kindly let them do. The legislation implemented by CARB at the behest of WSPA will prevent CARB from implementing the Clean Fuels Outlet for a decade. In exchange WSPA are supporting provisions that advance cleaner cars and trucks, and provide state funding for hydrogen vehicle fuel stations. Seems like a bit of a contradiction, right? It is not clear exactly how WSPA will be supporting such provisions, and what these provisions indeed are. CARB is insistent, however, that this deal is a positive step for them in introducing the green fuelling stations. The deal has also garnered outside support from green groups and government officials, with State Senate Fran Pavley, sponsor of the Senate bill, saying in an email; “I believe this bill will attract broad bipartisan support.”

Not everyone seems to agree. Many critics of the deal say that CARB’s move to change its own rules to keep the oil companies happy sets a precedent. Suggesting that it is likely that WSPA will continue to go after the legislature until it poses no threat to the oil companies at all. This theory is backed by the fact that in 2010 the oil industry funded an attempt to kill the states’ climate law. Their bid failed, but they are now focusing on weakening green rules. Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California, says that, “I see them going after individual regulations bit by bit… (it’s) like being nibbled to death by ducks.”

Why CARB Complied

CARB may claim to believe that this legislature will ultimately aid them in implanting their Clean Fuels Outlet initiative, but the reality of why they made the deal is far seamier than that. Oil companies have been widely acknowledged to dislike the Clean Fuels Outlet legislature since it began over two decades ago, and it was believed that they may sue CARB to cripple the initiative. Meaning that CARBS’ actions come down to nothing more than risk-avoidance and cost-saving.

Ask Questions

Unfortunately government initiatives to help the environment frequently amount to money-making schemes which accomplish little and cost tax payers a lot. This trend exists all over the world. recently published an article questioning the validity of UK governments’ claim that a green housing scheme would save buyers money in the long run. The governments’ ‘Green Deal’ promises to help 14 million homeowners cut their energy bills in a ‘buy now, pay later’ scheme. The scheme is to implement improvements to homes which would make them more energy efficient. It is claimed by the government that this green scheme will save those who invest in it more in energy bills in the long run, and in the ‘worst case scenario’ homeowners will break even. questioned this claim, inviting homeowners to investigate whether it really would be worth the cost. It is easy to be blinded by institutions purporting to aid the environment, as naturally we all recognize environmental damage as a big modern concern. Nevertheless it is important to ask questions. Look into what is actually being done, how the money is being spent, and whether it is quite so energy-efficient after all. 

-- Eve Lanark