Quantcast

As California Goes, So Goes the Planet

Climate

We need democracy like we need water. California primary voters must choose Bernie Sanders or the state will continue to experience a serious drought of both.

Despite California's claims to be an environmental leader, its government has been co-opted by the oil and gas industry and its citizens and climate are suffering. Gov. Brown has turned a blind eye to poor and Latino communities living next to polluting fracking wells and fracking wastewater being used to irrigate crops.

California primary voters must choose Bernie Sanders or the state will continue to experience a serious drought of both. Photo credit: Berniesanders.com

Under a Hillary Clinton presidency, California and the rest of the country would get even more fracking and fracked gas infrastructure. Her campaign took nearly $7 million from oil and gas lobbyists. Her State Department created the Global Shale Gas Initiative to promote fracking in 30 countries. Newly unearthed State Department emails show how aggressive that initiative was, working closely with oil and gas companies and enlisting help from 13 federal agencies to expand fracking into Europe, even where governments opposed it.

As president Bernie Sanders would support state fracking bans, ban fossil fuel extraction on federal lands, end government subsidies for oil and gas companies and bar their lobbyists from the White House. He'd change the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, so it would require reducing methane as well as CO2 emissions and favor building renewables instead of more gas plants.

The choice between these two futures is an existential one. Here's why:

Fracked oil and gas operations leak natural gas, which is mostly methane, a warming agent 86 times more potent than CO2 over 20 years. Industry statistics indicate onshore operations annually emit over four times more natural gas than the massive blowout at the Aliso Canyon storage facility. Just weeks after it was capped, Gov. Brown signed a bill allowing SoCalGas to resume operating there, provided the wells pass safety tests. But they aren't “safe;" they leak. SoCal's Aliso Canyon facility was only the best known leak; CPUC found hundreds of others last year, including a different Aliso Canyon operator caught deliberately venting natural gas in January, in the middle of the blowout.

Meanwhile the industry is pushing more fracked gas pipelines, gas plants and injection wells, which means more leaks. California is green-lighting and enabling the expansion. Over the past year the state even approved fracking wastewater injection wells near fault lines, raising earthquake risks.

If it stays on this path, it will lock in fracked oil and gas for the next 40 years. Then we can forget about California's environmental leader image or meeting Paris climate agreement goals of keeping warming under 2 degrees centigrade (we've already locked in 1.5 degrees, at 2 degrees sea levels rise 5 to 9 meters).

Even as it struggles with Biblical droughts and wildfires, California continues to frack oil wells and expand fracked gas infrastructure, further damaging the climate. This sets a hypocritical example for the rest of the world. As the world's eighth largest economy, California's choices influence others'. As the world's third largest consumer of gasoline and diesel, with the fourth highest per capita GHG emissions, it should make better ones.

California could set a very different example by choosing the only candidate who opposes fracking. Clinton and Brown both worked against concerned citizens trying to ban fracking; Sanders invited us into his office to talk policy. He and we understand we need nothing less than a political revolution to say "no" to big oil and gas and start scaling up renewables now.

So there's more at stake in Tuesday's primary than California's 475 delegates. Whether or not the outcome clinches the nomination, it will send an influential global signal about what Californians are prepared to do about climate change. And as California goes, so goes the planet.

Josh Fox's final film in his GASLAND trilogy How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change opens in the Los Angeles area on June 3 and airs on HBO June 27.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Follow the Money: Republican Attorneys General Attack on the Clean Power Plan

Sanders Touts Fracking Ban as Clinton Pushes Renewables Plan Just Days Before California Primary

Washington State Clean Air Rule Defies Court Order

Feds Find Offshore Fracking in the Pacific Would Have No 'Significant' Environmental Impact

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A baby burrowing owl perched outside its burrow on Marco Island, Florida. LagunaticPhoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Burrowing owls, which make their homes in small holes in the ground, are having a rough time in Florida. That's why Marco Island on the Gulf Coast passed a resolution to pay residents $250 to start an owl burrow in their front yard, as the Marco Eagle reported.

Read More
Amazon and other tech employees participate in the Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice continue to protest today. Karen Ducey / Getty Images

Hundreds of Amazon workers publicly criticized the company's climate policies Sunday, showing open defiance of the company following its threats earlier this month to fire workers who speak out on climate change.

Read More
Sponsored
Locusts swarm from ground vegetation as people approach at Lerata village, near Archers Post in Samburu county, approximately 186 miles north of Nairobi, Kenya on Jan. 22. "Ravenous swarms" of desert locusts in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia threaten to ravage the entire East Africa subregion, the UN warned on Jan. 20. TONY KARUMBA / AFP / Getty Images

East Africa is facing its worst locust infestation in decades, and the climate crisis is partly to blame.

Read More
The Antarctic Peninsula on Feb. 28, 2019. Daniel Enchev / Flickr

By Dan Morgan

Antarctica is the remotest part of the world, but it is a hub of scientific discovery, international diplomacy and environmental change. It was officially discovered 200 years ago, on Jan. 27, 1820, when members of a Russian expedition sighted land in what is now known as the Fimbul Ice Shelf on the continent's east side.

Read More
The seafood market in Wuhan, China that has been linked to the spread of the new coronavirus. HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP via Getty Images

China banned its trade in wild animals Sunday until the new coronavirus, which was linked to a market in Wuhan where wildlife was sold, is eradicated. Now, conservationists are calling on the country to make the ban permanent.

Read More