Sheila McNulty Prop 23′s defeat means little if California is alone

California’s decision to keep its climate laws on track is a blow to the oil industry that sought more time before they were enforced.

The lead backers, Valero Energy and Tesoro, which own four California refineries, say the regulations will cost the state more than 1.1m jobs, raise electricity rates up to 60 per cent and result in $3.7bn more in higher gasoline and diesel prices. They say the big losers are Californians.

The refiners had backed Proposition 23, a measure on the ballot that would have delayed implementation of carbon regulations until the state’s unemployment rate falls to 5.5 per cent and stays that way for a year. The unemployment rate is at 12.4 per cent.

But the companies were up against the terminator: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had spearheaded the legislation four years ago to establish California as global clearn energy leader, requiring it to cut greenhouse gas emissions 30 per cent by 2020. The law was his legacy, and the governor fought to retain it.

Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association,  which represents over 450 companies, responded to the defeat of the measure in a statement today:

The defeat of Proposition 23 will hurt families across California by destroying jobs and raising the costs of gasoline, diesel fuel, electricity and more. It is the wrong medicine at the wrong time for California’s ailing economy, which suffered from a 12.4 per cent unemployment rate in September that left 2.27m men and women unable to find jobs they so desperately need.

He predicted the climate legislation would not help the climate:

The severe economic pain and hardship caused by the extreme mandates of Proposition 23 will accomplish absolutely nothing positive in terms of climate change. They will result in the relocation of jobs and businesses from California to other states and other countries, along with the relocation of carbon emissions produced by those businesses and people. Since every state and nation on Earth share the same atmosphere, moving carbon from one location to another will not bring about any reduction in greenhouse gases.

Unfortunately, he is probably right. If the rest of the US does not do more to curb its carbon emissions, California’s efforts will be in vain. And with the Republicans back in charge in Congress, it looks like what little momentum there had been to clean up the rest of the country is likely to come to a grinding halt.