Tag Archives: California Gov. Jerry Brown

California Gov. Brown: keep the oil in the ground

Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle
[Editor – This report signals a highly significant shift in the discussions surrounding climate change and the oil industry: cut demand … or cut supply?   A must read!  – RS]

Gov. Brown wants to keep oil in the ground. But whose oil?

By David R. Baker, July 26, 2015 8:16pm
California Gov. Jerry Brown, right,  delivers his speech flanked by the head of the pontifical academy of Science, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, during  a conference on Modern Slavery and Climate Change in the Casina Pio IV the Vatican, Wednesday, July 22, 2015.  Dozens of environmentally friendly mayors from around the world are meeting at the Vatican this week to bask in the star power of eco-Pope Francis and commit to reducing global warming and helping the urban poor deal with its effects. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) Photo: Alessandra Tarantino, Associated Press
California Gov. Jerry Brown, right, delivers his speech during a conference on Modern Slavery and Climate Change in the Casina Pio IV the Vatican, Wednesday, July 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Even the greenest, most eco-friendly politicians rarely utter the words Gov. Jerry Brown spoke at the Vatican’s climate change symposium last week.

To prevent the worst effects of global warming, one-third of the world’s known oil reserves must remain in the ground, Brown told the gathering of government officials from around the world. The same goes for 50 percent of natural gas reserves and 90 percent of coal.

“Now that is a revolution,” Brown said. “That is going to take a call to arms.”

It’s an idea widely embraced among environmentalists and climate scientists. Burn all the world’s known fossil fuel supplies — the ones already discovered by energy companies — and the atmosphere would warm to truly catastrophic levels. Never mind hunting for more oil.

But it’s a concept few politicians will touch. That’s because it raises a question no one wants to answer: Whose oil has to stay put?

“They’ve all got their own oil,” said environmental activist and author Bill McKibben, who first popularized the issue with a widely read 2012 article in Rolling Stone. “Recognizing that you’ve got to leave your own oil — and not somebody else’s — in the ground is the next step.”

Take California.

No state has done more to fight global warming. By 2020, under state law, one-third of California’s electricity must come from the sun, the wind and other renewable sources. Brown wants 50 percent renewable power by 2030 and has called for slashing the state’s oil use in half by the same year.

But he has shown no interest in cutting the state’s oil production. He has touted the economic potential of California’s vast Monterey Shale formation, whose oil reserves drillers are still trying to tap. And he has steadfastly refused calls from within his own party to ban fracking.

“If we reduce our oil drilling in California by a few percent, which a ban on fracking would do, we’ll import more oil by train or by boat,” Brown told “Meet the Press.” “That doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

California remains America’s third-largest oil producing state, behind Texas and North Dakota. The industry directly employs 184,100 Californians, helps support an estimated 271,840 other jobs and yields $21.2 billion in state and local taxes each year, according to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.

‘Phasing out oil drilling’

Any governor, no matter how environmentally minded, would have a hard time turning that down. Even if many environmentalists wish Brown would.

“Just like we have a plan for increasing renewables, we need a plan for phasing out oil drilling in California,” said Dan Jacobson, state director for Environment California.

It’s difficult for politicians to even talk about something as stark as putting limits on pumping oil, he said.

“Solar and wind and electric cars are really hopeful things, whereas keeping oil in the ground sounds more like doomsday,” Jacobson said.

And yet, Jacobson, McKibben and now apparently Brown are convinced that most fossil fuel reserves must never be used.

The percentages Brown cited come from a study published this year in the scientific journal Nature. The researchers calculated that in order to keep average global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius — 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit — above preindustrial levels, the world’s economy can pump no more than 1,100 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere between 2011 and 2050. Burning the world’s known fossil fuel reserves would produce roughly three times that amount, they wrote.

Most governments pursing climate-change policies have agreed to aim for a 2-degree Celsius warming limit, although many scientists consider that dangerously high. So far, global temperatures have warmed 0.8 degrees Celsius from preindustrial times.

“The unabated use of all current fossil fuel reserves is incompatible with a warming limit of 2 degrees Celsius,” the study concludes.

Nonetheless, states, countries and companies with fossil fuel reserves all have an obvious and powerful incentive to keep drilling.

The market value of oil companies, for example, is based in part on the size of their reserves and their ability to find more. Activist investors warning of a “carbon bubble” in their valuations have pushed the companies to assess how many of those reserves could become stranded assets if they can’t be burned. The companies have resisted.

President Obama, meanwhile, has made fighting climate change a key focus of his presidency, raising fuel efficiency standards for cars, pumping public financing into renewable power and pushing for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Cut demand or cut supply

But Obama has also boasted about America’s surging oil and natural gas production — and tried to claim credit for it. Last week, his administration gave Royal Dutch Shell the green light to hunt for oil in the Arctic Ocean. Keeping oil in the ground does not quite square with his “all of the above” energy policy, observers note. At least, not American oil.

“The same government that is working very hard to get a Clean Power Plan is allowing Shell to go exploring for hydrocarbons in the middle of nowhere, oil that may never be producible,” said climate activist and former hedge fund executive Tom Steyer, with audible exasperation.

He notes that Obama, Brown and other politicians intent on fighting climate change have focused their efforts on cutting the demand for fossil fuels, rather than the supply. Most of the policies that climate activists want to see enacted nationwide — such as placing a price on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases — would do the same, ratcheting down demand rather than placing hard limits on fossil fuel production.

“The political thinking is the market itself will take care of figuring out which fossil fuels have to stay in the ground,” Steyer said.

Some climate fights, however, have focused on supply. And again, the issue of whose fossil fuels have to stay put has played a part.

Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline extension, for example, see blocking the project — which would run from Canada to America’s Gulf Coast — as a way to stop or at least slow development of Alberta’s enormous oil sands. James Hansen, the former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, famously declared that fully developing the sands would be “game over for the climate.”

Obama has delayed a decision on the pipeline for years. Given America’s own rising oil production, rejecting a project that could be a boon for the Canadian economy would be difficult, analysts say.

“The message would be, ‘We’re not going to help you develop your resources — we’ll essentially raise the cost,’” said UC Berkeley energy economist Severin Borenstein. He is convinced that Canada will develop the tar sands, regardless.

“It’s become such a huge symbol that it’s impossible for Obama to make a decision on it,” Borenstein said. “I think he’s just going to run out the clock.”

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    SF Chronicle editorial: A climate pilgrimage

    Repost from The San Francisco Chronicle
    [Editor:  The San Francisco Chronicle ran three (!) stories on the Vatican Conference on climate change, including two rather stiff challenges to California Governor Jerry Brown.  See below for one.  See also: As California pumps out oil, Gov. Brown says world must cut back … and SF Mayor touts green vehicles at Vatican conference.  – RS]

    Climate change road trip for Jerry Brown and Ed Lee

    Editorial, The San Francisco Chronicle, July 21, 2015 5:16pm

    California is taking its climate change ambitions on a pilgrimage to Rome. The mission amplifies the major steps that have put this state out front in reshaping energy use and also taps into a sweeping papal message on reining in environmental damage.

    Leading the tour is Gov. Jerry Brown, joined by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee among some 60 global mayors. The Vatican gathering, which will also touch on human trafficking, intends to build on Pope Francis’ encyclical denouncing the toll from climate change and puts pressure on world leaders to take action at a U.N. summit in Paris in December.

    Former Jesuit seminarian Brown put himself in tune with Francis by talking up the “moral dimension” of human-caused problems such as erratic weather, rising seas and dirty air. But he also struck a more earthly note, lashing out at “troglodyte” skeptics who deny the science behind rising temperatures and shifting climates.

    California is already a leader in reducing tailpipe emissions, cutting fossil fuel use and increasing energy efficiency, going well beyond national standards. In the next 15 years, Brown wants to kick up the pace: Half of California’s electricity will come from renewables such as solar, wind or biofuels, and gas pump use will drop by half as well.

    He told his audience of clerics and politicians that such goals sound “unimaginable” but are needed. Brown lashed out at “fierce opposition and blind inertia” from doubtful lawmakers and dug-in business interests. Brown himself is no stranger to these pressures, giving his blessing to fracking for oil and gas, widely opposed by environmentalists. In his encyclical, Francis also criticized cap-and-trade regulations as too lax, though the carbon-tax mechanism is a bedrock feature of the governor’s energy plans.

    The gathering is also chance for other leaders to showcase policies. Lee unwrapped a plan to phase out petroleum in favor of renewable diesel fuels for the municipal fleet by the end of the year. It’s a another step in clearing the air of damaging greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

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      As California pumps out oil, Gov. Brown says world must cut back

      Repost from The San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate)
      [Editor:  The San Francisco Chronicle ran three (!) stories on the Vatican Conference on climate change, including two rather stiff challenges to California Governor Jerry Brown.  See below for one.  See also: Editorial-A climate pilgrimage, …and Mayor touts city’s green vehicles at pope’s event.  – RS]

      As California pumps out oil, Gov. Brown says world must cut back

      By David R. Baker, July 21, 2015 4:02 pm
      Gov. Jerry Brown delivers his speech during the conference at the Vatican. Photo: Gregorio Borgia, Associated Press
      Gov. Jerry Brown delivers his speech during the conference at the Vatican. Photo: Gregorio Borgia, Associated Press (1st of 10 images – click for more).

      One-third of the world’s oil must stay in the ground if humanity hopes to avoid the worst effects of global warming, Gov. Jerry Brown told a climate conference at the Vatican Tuesday.

      “We are going to have to set a clear goal,” Brown told a crowd of mayors and public officials from around the world. “And that goal is almost unimaginable. One-third of the oil that we know exists as reserves can never be taken out of the ground. Fifty percent of the gas can never be used and over 90 percent of the coal. Now, that is a revolution.”

      For an American politician of Brown’s stature, it was a rare statement. Even those who acknowledge the threat of climate change prefer not to address the idea that tapping all of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves would trigger catastrophic levels of warming, a notion widely embraced in the environmental movement.

      But Brown’s comment was particularly noteworthy for another reason.

      California, for all its efforts to fight climate change, remains America’s third-largest oil producing state, out-pumped only by Texas and North Dakota. And while Brown wants to cut California’s use of oil by 50 percent in the next 15 years, he has generally supported oil production within the state’s borders.

      Brown has for years refused to ban hydraulic fracturing, preferring to regulate it instead. He has argued that finding a way to tap the oil trapped within California’s Monterey Shale formation could produce an economic boom for the state. His stance has infuriated many environmentalists, even as they laud his efforts to boost renewable power and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

      So Brown’s comments, at the Vatican global symposium on climate change and modern slavery, raised a few eyebrows back home.

      “We agree, fossil fuels need to stay in the ground,” said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the environmental groups pushing for a fracking ban. “That’s why Gov. Brown can’t be a climate leader and expand fossil fuel production in his own state. Climate leaders do not frack.”

      Brown urged the gathered mayors to push for climate action within their own countries, saying they needed to “light a fire” under their national leaders. And he took aim at opponents of such action, saying they were “bamboozling” the public with a well-financed disinformation campaign.

      “We have very powerful opposition that, in at least my country, spends billions on trying to keep from office people such as yourselves and elect troglodytes and other deniers of the obvious science,” Brown said.

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        Wastewater conspiracy allegations – Governor, Chevron sued

        Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle

        Lawsuit: Conspiracy by Gov. Brown, oil companies tainted aquifers

        By David R. Baker, June 3, 2015 4:35pm
        Kern County farmer Mike Hopkins says he lost a cherry orchard to oil-industry wastewater contamination. Photo: Leah Millis, The Chronicle
        Kern County farmer Mike Hopkins says he lost a cherry orchard to oil-industry wastewater contamination. Photo: Leah Millis, The Chronicle

        A conspiracy involving Gov. Jerry Brown, state regulators, Chevron Corp. and the oil industry let petroleum companies inject their wastewater into California aquifers despite the devastating drought, a lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges.

        Gov. Jerry Brown is accused of firing California’s top oil regulator after she started subjecting some of the oil companies’ operations to greater scrutiny. Photo: Rich Pedroncelli, Associated Press
        Gov. Jerry Brown is accused of firing California’s top oil regulator after she started subjecting some of the oil companies’ operations to greater scrutiny. Photo: Rich Pedroncelli, Associated Press

        The suit claims that Brown in 2011 fired California’s top oil regulator under pressure from the industry after she started subjecting some of the oil companies’ operations to greater scrutiny, particularly requests to dispose of oil field wastewater underground. Brown then replaced her with someone who promised to be more “flexible” with the oil companies, according to the complaint.

        Federal officials have since determined that oil companies have injected billions of gallons of their wastewater into aquifers that should have been protected by law, aquifers that could be used for drinking or irrigation. California regulators have now pledged to end the practice, although some of the injection wells may be allowed to keep pumping until 2017.

        “California is experiencing the greatest drought of this generation, and protecting fresh water is of paramount concern,” said R. Rex Parris, lead attorney representing Central Valley farmers on the suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

        California’s oil reservoirs contain large amounts of salty water that must be separated from the petroleum and disposed of, usually by pumping it underground. Oil production companies can’t extract oil without some way of handling the left-over water, also known as “produced water.” The urge to boost California oil production prompted the conspiracy, Parris said.

        “The fundamental goal of the … conspiracy was to preserve and expand the ability to inject underground chemicals and toxic waste, thereby expanding their oil production and maximizing profits, including tax revenues,” he said.

        The governor’s office declined to comment on the suit Wednesday, as did the state’s oil regulating agency, the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. The division is named as a defendant in the suit, as are Chevron, Occidental Oil, two oil industry associations and several state and local officials. A Chevron spokesman said protecting water resources is one of the company’s core values.

        The suit marks the latest twist in a long-building problem that burst into the open last year when the division abruptly shut down several wells that it feared could be injecting oil-field wastewater into aquifers already used for irrigation or drinking. Since then, the number of injection wells closed by the state has increased to 23. But the division insists it has not yet found any drinking or irrigation wells that have been tainted by the injections.

        The lawsuit argues, however, that at least one Central Valley farmer lost an orchard to contamination from the oil industry’s produced water. Mike Hopkins, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, had to tear out 3,500 cherry trees whose leaves kept shriveling up and turning brown. Tests of the water showed unusually high levels of salt and boron. A former wastewater injection well lay across a rural road from his Kern County orchard.

        Much of the suit involves a 2011 episode that until this year received little attention outside Sacramento and the Central Valley’s oil fields.

        Oil companies and their political allies complained that the division under its supervisor at the time, Elena Miller, had bogged down the process of applying for underground injection permits. In addition to wastewater disposal, California oil companies need the permits to inject steam or water into aging oil fields as a way of flushing out more petroleum.

        Miller had held the position since 2009 and was considered an outsider by the industry. According to the suit, Miller insisted that the law required oil companies to submit detailed engineering and geological studies for each proposed injection well before the division could issue a permit.

        The industry balked and took its complaints directly to the governor, urging Brown to fire Miller. A few Central Valley politicians had already done the same. Some environmentalists, meanwhile, had criticized Miller for what they considered her hands-off approach to hydraulic fracturing.

        Chevron spokesman Kurt Glaubitz said Wednesday that the company had not urged Brown to remove Miller.

        In November 2011, Brown removed Miller. She was replaced by Tim Kustic, who according to the suit dropped the requirement that the companies submit the disputed studies before receiving injection permits. Kustic is also named as a defendant in the suit.

         

         

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