A Free-Market Energy Blog

California Climate Crazy: Lobbying to Outlaw Fossil Fuels (… calling Tom Tanton and Alex Epstein)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- August 29, 2018

“On behalf of our communities, and the estimated 5.4 million Californians who live within a mile of one or more oil and gas wells, we ask you to take the next step in bold climate leadership: phase out fossil fuel production in California by ending the issuance of permits for new fossil fuel projects, instituting a 2,500-foot public health setback for oil and gas facilities, and committing the state to 100% renewable energy.”

 – Elected Officials to Protect California, “Urge Governor Brown to Commit to Phasing Out Fossil Fuel Production in California,” August 2018.

The climate crusade is losing badly. But in California, where emotions trump reason and Statism trumps economic freedom, it is double-down time.

Frustration is at an all-time high with the keep-it-in-the-ground climate crusade encountering marketplace and multi-level political problems. In the market, the US-led global fossil-fuel boom is in full bloom—and accelerating. Expect domestic carbon emissions to rise (not a bad thing) and our exports (prominently including coal) to help other nations overcome their political-class Paris climate accord CO2 budgets.

Politically, the Paris accord is in big trouble with the US paving the way for other pullouts. The  San Francisco and Oakland climate lawsuits have been tossed. And very few Democrats dare campaign on a carbon-tax platform.

And so we have a temper tantrum from public officials in the Golden State–hardly a sign they care to compete against Texas and other hydrocarbon friendly states. Exhibit A is this recent letter (footnotes deleted) from a new group calling itself the Elected Officials to Protect California:

We, the undersigned elected officials of California, are deeply concerned about the impacts of climate change and pollution caused by the extraction, processing, and burning of fossil fuels on the people we represent. We applaud your leadership in affirming our state’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and in supporting groundbreaking policies like the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act. Yet, these measures have failed to address fossil fuel production, the core culprit of climate change and a major source of life-threatening pollution.

On behalf of our communities, and the estimated 5.4 million Californians who live within a mile of one or more oil and gas wells, we ask you to take the next step in bold climate leadership: phase out fossil fuel production in California by ending the issuance of permits for new fossil fuel projects, instituting a 2,500-foot public health setback for oil and gas facilities, and committing the state to 100% renewable energy.

The science is clear: these actions are imperative to address climate change and to protect public health. Production of oil and gas is a significant contributor to California’s greenhouse gas emissions, and is particularly polluting. Three-quarters of California’s oil production is as dirty as Canada’s tar sands crude for the climate.

We can no longer ignore the true costs of oil and gas production. The disastrous impacts of fossil fuel use, including air pollution, droughts, fires, mudslides, storms, and sea level rise, already cost Californians more than 12,000 lives and one hundred billion dollars annually. Yet the oil and gas industry contributes less than 0.3 percent of California’s GDP and a small number of jobs.

Scientific evidence demonstrates that exposure to toxic air contaminants and other pollution caused by oil and gas wells is a significant threat to public health, and disproportionately affects disadvantaged communities and people of color. According to the California Council on Science and Technology, the greatest health risks occur within one-half mile from active oil and gas development,7 yet nearly 8,500 active California oil and gas wells are within 2,500 feet of homes, schools, and hospitals. Unconscionably, California has no statewide policy limiting the proximity of oil and gas wells to homes and vulnerable areas like schools, parks, and hospitals.

The Global Climate Action Summit you are convening in San Francisco this September is an opportunity for California to lead and set our nation and the world on a crucial and pivotal path forward. Recognizing that we are in a climate emergency, as you have rightly done, and given the grave public health and environmental justice consequences of fossil fuel production in California, we respectfully urge you to make a new statewide commitment and lay out a plan for California to achieve the following:

– End the issuance of permits for new fossil fuel projects, including permits for new oil and gas wells, infrastructure for fossil fuels, and petrochemical projects in California.

– Design a swift, managed decline of all fossil fuel production, starting with a 2,500-foot human health buffer zone around all occupied structures, public parks and farms to protect public health and vulnerable communities.

– Commit the state to 100% clean, renewable energy, starting with significant investments in disadvantaged communities and areas that are already suffering the most from the negative impacts of fossil fuel extraction.

This is the bold climate leadership we urgently need to protect our public health, communities, economies, and our future. Phasing out fossil fuel production is paramount to address climate change, and will make California healthier and cleaner while reducing water use. It will also create hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the state as we increase investment in renewable energy, clean vehicles and buildings, energy efficiency, public transportation, and other innovative solutions.

For a safe, healthy, and prosperous California, the time for transformative action is now.


  1. Sean  

    California has the highest poverty level in the nation when cost of living is considered. More than half the state’s population struggle to pay their bills. 31% of the population is on Medicaid. A large portion of Millenials in the state feel the American Dream cannot be attained. So what does the legislature do? Pass expensive symbolic gestures that drive out energy intensive jobs. How much longer will the citizens of California keep sending legislators to Sacramento more concerned with symbolism than their prosperity?


  2. Tom Tanton  

    Sean if it was simply symbolic I would care less. Unfortunately, the legislation posturing and “symbolism” is counterproductive AND filled with ‘unintended’ consequences (albeit not unanticipated.) IF they were truly concerned about climate change emissions they’d look at the data and see what system is actually working to reduce GHG. (not saying they have to be reduced) Turns out that free(r) markets outshine statist (California) approaches hands down. So why not simply make both ‘sides’ happy and use free market? (my guess is it really is not about GHG emissions.)


  3. Gordon J. Fulks, PhD  

    Whenever we hear statements such as “The science is clear,” it is certainly not. Those who make such boasts about our climate clearly know nothing about it.

    One of the main reasons that this subject is so controversial among real scientists is that it is very complex. We realize that we live on a planet with vast oceans and atmosphere that are never in complete equilibrium. That alone creates a chaotic situation that makes the future difficult to predict. With the advent of the satellite era, we have been able to measure sea surface temperatures over a wide area and note the arrival of such events as El Ninos and La Ninas that have known consequences for our weather months later. Ocean effects are sufficient to explain our varying climate in the short term, with solar, cosmic ray, and orbital effects clearly important over longer periods.

    Atmospheric composition also has some effect, but with water vapor clearly dominant and surface temperature limiting, the effect of slowly rising carbon dioxide is minimal. The theoretical temperature rise for a doubling of atmospheric CO2 is about one degree C. With feedbacks from water vapor, alarmists claim that the net warming will be 2 or 3 degrees C.

    Skeptics see water vapor as a cooling phenomenon that will provide a negative feedback and little if any net warming. There is certainly no looming catastrophe. And based on the failure of the climate models to predict the climate over the satellite era, we have to conclude that the robust evidence favors skeptics. We may never see any net warming attributable to man-made CO2.

    With most scientists now agreeing that there is no looming climate crisis, there is no excuse for those politicians without any scientific training whatsoever running around shouting “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!”

    Gordon J. Fulks, PhD (Physics)
    Corbett, Oregon USA


  4. Stephen Heins  

    “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

    Ralph Waldo Emerson


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