Tag Archives: Steve Young

Game Over for the Oil Industry, What Will Benicia Do?

Emergency flaring at Valero Benicia Refinery, May 5, 2017. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)
By Grant Cooke, Benicia resident and President, AgTech Blends, September 14, 2020
Grant Cooke

During the 2016 resistance to Valero’s horrendous attempt to bring crude oil by rail into Benicia, I urged the city council to rethink its dependence on Valero for the bulk of its tax support. I suggested then that we move away from being a “company town” to one that embraced a more knowledge-based economic model with a diversified tax base.

I pointed out that as the world’s industrial nations shift from carbon-driven economies that threatened severe climate disruption and environmental catastrophe to a clean energy driven model, those mega-trend shifts would have significant impact on our little town.

I noted that the era of the Bay Area’s refineries was drawing to a close and that most—including Valero—would be closed before mid-century.

It was not a popular observation, even though at the time there was a rumor that all five Bay Area refineries were for sale, but title couldn’t change hands because the environmental cleanup was prohibitive. Besides, the oil industry’s business model of ever-increasing demand was suspect.

Well, then the nation’s leadership banked a hard right, the Environmental Protection Agency was gutted, the heavy oil interests broke free, and the carbon boys rode tall as the U.S. became a net exporter and one of the world’s major oil producers.

2019 saw the highpoint. Production was up 11 percent to new historic U.S. highs of over 12 million barrels per day. In 2018 Brent Crude’s price was over $70 per barrel. It slipped to $65 per barrel in 2019, but production was at a fever pitch.

And then it all collapsed. The Saudis and the Russians did a circular firing squad, OPEC stumbled, supply burgeoned, the novel coronavirus hit, and the U.S. economy tanked. At this spring’s lows, Brent Crude dropped to about $34 per barrel.

Now that the Saudis and Russians have given up their battle, Brent has budged a bit to $44 per barrel.

With the economic collapse so too has the demand for gasoline. Storage is full, demand is way down, supply is way up.

Valero as a refiner makes money when oil prices slide. As long as supply increases and oil prices drop but demand for gas is constant, money is made, profits are up, bonuses and dividends are paid.

Back in June 2018, Valero was in its glory, and the stock price was a couple of cents under $127 per share. The fall was ugly. By April 2020, it broke down to around $31. It has since rebounded a bit—what the financial folks colorfully describe as a Dead Cat bounce—to the mid-$50s. Most likely, it will turn down again and the dividend will be reduced.

What’s equally as devastating to Valero and the oil industry, is that Covid-19 and the subsequent economic collapse has pushed clean energy forward into the nation’s recovery plans. A huge national infrastructure plan is on the horizon, much of it encompassing renewable energy.

This is the TESLA tsunami with its market cap of $144 billion, and the growing consumer recognition that e-vehicles are better, faster, and cleaner than gas-powered cars. E-vehicles and hybrids are the growing segment of the auto market.

About 13 percent of California’s vehicles are e-vehicles or hybrids, and the percentage is growing with the state’s goal of 5 million zero emission vehicles on the road by 2030.

Pickups and commercial vehicles like trucks and forklifts are turning to electric motors for their increased power and torque. Even in the mining industry, electric, autonomous vehicles are being phased in to reduce costs and improve efficiency.

Eventually, there won’t be any more diesel trucks idling in Oakland’s port, and the incidence of asthma will drop significantly in nearby neighborhoods.

The oil industry needs to look no further for discouraging news than the recent announcement by General Motors, the largest U.S. automaker, that it is converting most of its fleet to electric power. Led by Cadillac, GM intends to have 20 electric nameplates by 2023, including an electric Hummer and a rumored Corvette that will hit 200 mph to compete with the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E.

Further, Southern California’s Hyperion just introduced the XP-1, a mind-blowing mega car powered by hydrogen with a top speed over 220 mph and a range of 1,000 miles on a tank of hydrogen. Europe already has hydrogen-powered buses, and hydrogen fuel cell technology will only hasten the development of carbon-free vehicles.

Finally, and what really should worry Valero and Benicia, is that Phillips 66 just announced that they are converting the Rodeo facility from refining crude oil to a renewable fuels plant using cooking oil and food wastes to produce motor fuels. The conversion should be finished in 2024.

The oil industry is not known for its vision and if Phillips sees that the carbon era is over, most likely it is.

As the world transitions away from carbon energy, the remaining crude-based Bay Area refineries will suffer, and some will lock their gates. The money isn’t there for the environmental cleanup, so the cities—Benicia, Martinez, Pinole, Richmond—will be left without tax revenue and worse, holding the bag for the hazardous waste.

The November election is critical for our nation, and equally important for our town. Some city council candidates are being funded by the oil industry, in a last-ditch effort to cement political power and influence, preserve profits, and probably re-introduce a Crude-by-Rail agenda.

The oil industry and union Political Action Committee, or PAC, has in fact set aside $250,000 this year to steer the 2020 election to their chosen candidates. It would be tragic for Benicia’s if they succeed.

The future for Benicia is not in clinging to the century-long carbon industry that is in decline. Benicia’s future is, or at least should be, in the knowledge-based economy. Science, technology and innovation are the drivers that create wealth and municipal security in the Bay Area. That is where the future is, not in the gas pumps.

Benicia is facing a severe challenge. The carbon-based tax structure that supported its amiable lifestyle with a full range of municipal services is ending.

Allowing a last gasp effort by the oil industry to control the city’s future is a terrible idea. That game is, and should be, over.

I’m voting for and supporting Steve Young for mayor. (And no, Steve has not approved this message.)


Grant Cooke is a Benicia resident and co-author of two books:
By Woodrow Clark II and Grant Cooke, published by Elsevier and available at Amazon:
Grant Cooke
President, AgTech Blends
https://agtechblends.com

Benicia Candidate Forum – Progressive Democrats interview Mayor and Council candidates

Repost from ProgressiveDemocratsOfBenicia.org, (Also appearing in the print edition of the Benicia Herald), August 15, 2020

Election Season Jump Starts with Candidate Forum at Progressive Democrats of Benicia

This article does not imply endorsement.  Our endorsement vote is currently in progress. Results to be posted on August 19.

(Benicia, CA) – Benicia’s election season was kicked off last Tuesday with one of the first candidate forums of the 2020 campaign, featuring notable absences by mayoral candidate Christina Strawbridge and city council candidate Tom Campbell.

The online, well-attended forum presented mayoral candidate Steve Young, along with Terry Scott and Trevor Macenski, both candidates for our local city council.  Each candidate responded to a series of questions from the Progressive Democrats group and then host Maggie Kolk fielded questions from the attendees via chat.

[If you have time, check out  the ZOOM video recording of the forum for candidate statements, questions and answers.]

It was clear that the candidates in attendance are extremely knowledgeable on the issues facing Benicia. The rich exchange of ideas informed not only the members attending but the candidates themselves on the differences of opinions and experience.

Councilman Young stated that he brought four decades of local government experience as well as his service to Benicia in serving on the local planning commission for four years and as Vice Mayor for two years and another two years as a council member.

Terry Scott shared his experience as Senior Vice President, Global Head of Creative Services for Hasbro and his work as a futurist in understanding the needs of an aging Benicia moving forward.  Scott also currently serves as the chair of Benicia’s Arts and Culture Commission but mentioned that he wants to be known as more than the “art guy.”

Vice Chair of Benicia’s Planning Commission Trevor Macenski demonstrated his professional experience in environmental and city planning and excelled at answering questions on those issues.

There was agreement on most issues, such as the need for fiscal responsibility and budget adjustments to the City’s fiscal outlook to prepare for the financial impacts of the pandemic.  All agreed that assistance to Benicia businesses, affordable housing, and running clean campaigns should be a priority.

About racial injustice concerns raised during recent peaceful protests in Benicia, all candidates supported Police Chief Erik Upson’s Plan and community engagement, and said they would continue discussions with him on these concerns after elected.

Candidates Young and Scott agreed that Benicia needs an Industrial Safety Ordinance, which would hold Valero’s Benicia refinery more accountable to our community. Macenski, however, said Benicia did not need an ISO given the existing communication channels between Valero and the City. While Young and Scott agreed that they would reject another Crude-by-Rail project, Macenski said no but also indicated he would be open to projects that enhanced the refinery’s ability to do business “within their existing use permit.”

On the day that presidential candidate Joe Biden announced his Vice Presidential pick of Kamala Harris, all candidates registered their support for the Democratic ticket at the very top.

Although the question wasn’t asked at the forum, the council candidates have gone on record as Scott supporting Steve Young and Macenski supporting Christina Strawbridge for mayor.

“It was a great discussion with the three candidates and on issues that the next Council will be facing,” said PDB Chair Ralph Dennis. “The meeting was well attended with over 50 local voters joining our on-line meeting. It was too bad and extremely disappointing that two Democratic candidates chose not to face the questions asked by the community,” Dennis added.

The Progressive Democrats of Benicia, a chartered club of the Solano County Democratic Central Committee, will announce their endorsements on August 19, after online voting has been tallied.

For more information on the candidates featured at the forum visit:

Steve Young files official papers, runs for Benicia Mayor

Benicia Councilmember Steve Young files for mayor candidacy

Benicia Councilmember Steve Young is sworn in to run for Mayor of Benicia in the Nov. election on July 30.

BENICIA – Thur., City Councilman Steve Young filed to run in the Nov. 3 race for Benicia Mayor.

“I am happy to announce that I have submitted the signatures required to secure my place on the ballot for Mayor of Benicia,” said Young.

As a Community Development Director, as a Planning Commissioner and as a City Councilmember for Benicia, Young has built a foundation in public service.

“I’m proud to be the voice that listens to the local voter in Benicia, the person who works for a living, who cares for their family, or who is retired,” said Young. “These residents of Benicia want the best public education for their kids, a safe neighborhood, and a walkable downtown with access to our wonderful parks and waterfront. These are the people that I hope to represent, not out of town special interest groups.”

When it came time to collect signatures for the petition for his nomination papers, Young did not seek out specific voters or representatives from large organizations – he took a different approach.

“In the time-honored tradition of using our public spaces for public endeavors and announcements, I stood by the City Park Gazebo and invited the public to sign my petition and be part of my campaign,” said Young. “I cannot tell you how proud and honored I am to be able to submit my election petition and to commit my time and energy to representing the voters of Benicia.”

Steve Young wants to continue his commitment to the residents of Benicia, his commitment to transparency, and to continue to listen and work for them.

“I ask for your vote on or before Nov. 3, 2020,” said Young.

Residents can learn more about his platform, read about his views on current City issues, and volunteer to help by going to www.steveyoungformayor.org.

SACRAMENTO BEE: Tom Steyer & Steve Young – Benicia should block oil trains

Repost from the Sacramento Bee

Benicia should block oil trains

By Tom Steyer and Steve YoungSpecial to The Bee, March 14, 2016 9:30AM

HIGHLIGHTS
•  Valero wants to bring trains carrying crude through Sacramento region to Benicia refinery
• Even without a catastrophe, oil trains pose a serious threat to public health and safety
• With clean energy and efficiency, California doesn’t need to take the risk

Railroad tracks lead to Valero’s refinery in Benicia. The company wants to ship oil there with two, 50-car trains a day.
Railroad tracks lead to Valero’s refinery in Benicia. The company wants to ship oil there with two, 50-car trains a day. Manny Crisostomo Sacramento Bee file

If approved, proposed new oil train terminals at refineries in California would turn our railways into crude oil superhighways. Mile-long oil trains would haul millions of gallons of toxic, explosive crude through downtown Sacramento and dozens of other California cities and towns. An estimated 5 million Californians live in the one-mile evacuation zone along oil train routes.

In Benicia, city officials are close to a final decision on the proposed Valero oil train terminal. It’s essential that City Council members, who hold a hearing on Tuesday, understand why oil trains are too dangerous for our communities. There is no sure way to protect public health while transporting crude oil by rail.

Tom Steyer

Valero wants to bring two 50-car trains carrying about 3 million gallons of oil to its Benicia refinery every day. The environmental review of the proposal cites the “potentially significant” hazard of a spill and fire.

In 2013, the oil train explosion in Lac Megantic, Quebec, demonstrated the danger. It killed 47 people, destroyed dozens of buildings and poisoned a local lake. Three years later, residents still live with fear and anxiety, and scientists have recorded an “unprecedented” spike of fish deformities.

Steve_Young
Steve Young

But it doesn’t take a catastrophe for oil trains to pose a serious threat to public health and safety. They disrupt traffic, delay emergency response and bring more poisoned air and increased disease. That’s why six counties and 22 cities around Sacramento have already said no to these trains. But the safety of all Californians living in the blast zone lies in the hands of Benicia city officials who will decide whether to approve Valero’s permit.

On Feb. 11, after days of testimony from experts and community members, the city Planning Commission voted unanimously to deny the permit. Valero has appealed to the Benicia City Council, which will make the final decision.

Something similar is happening in San Luis Obispo County, where the county staff and the California Coastal Commission recommended that the county reject the Phillips 66 oil train terminal proposal. The county Planning Commission must decide soon, but the final decision will rest with county supervisors.

Last year, NextGen Climate, the Natural Resources Defense Council, ForestEthics and Communities for a Better Environment released a report on oil industry plans to ship dirty Canadian tar sands crude to West Coast refineries. The report found that heavy crude would increase carbon pollution by as much as 26 million metric tons – the equivalent of adding 5.5 million cars to the road.

The good news is that we don’t have to live with these oil risks barreling through town. We can make our communities safer by transitioning to clean energy. A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists revealed that improvements in fuel efficiency and energy technology could help us cut oil consumption in half by 2030.

There’s no place for extreme tar sands or Bakken crude in California’s emerging clean energy economy – and there’s no place in our communities for dangerous, unnecessary crude oil trains.

Tom Steyer is founder of NextGen Climate and can be contacted at info@nextgenclimate.org.  Steve Young is a Benicia planning commissioner and can be contacted at steveyoung94510@gmail.com.