In recent comments, the Sierra Club's Kathryn Phillips ironically calls out the oil and gas industry for being too effective in working within the democratic process to advance its positions on legislative and policy matters affecting millions of hardworking Californians, particularly those in Bakersfield and Kern County.
She contends the only reason some legislators support petroleum industry positions on key issues rather than those of the Sierra Club is because of undue influence, rather than these legislators understanding their constituents and the negative consequences of policies that fail to take into account the real-world impact on working families, people of color and disadvantaged communities.
Significantly, Phillips bypasses the inconvenient, messy democratic principle that all voices have a right to be heard, and one side of an issue does not and must not control setting policy without challenge. Carefully seeking and giving weight to other reasonable and constructive thinking is essential to finding common ground, even if your side doesn't get everything it wants.
We find ourselves in a hyper-partisan era and Phillips and others in the anti-fossil fuel movement double-down on this narrow worldview. They prefer that legislators — especially Democrats — act in lockstep to force 26 million California drivers out of their dependable, affordable gas-powered vehicles into costly, less reliable limited-range electric vehicles. They say this approach is the only way to solve air quality problems, rejecting any discussion of alternative approaches, facts or potential negative impacts on jobs and the economy. Fortunately, there are responsible legislators who take a more balanced approach considering all the evidence and diverse points of view before making decisions. That's how democracy works, and I want to thank them for weighing carefully the real-world consequences of their actions.
While more affluent people can afford electric vehicles and tolerate their limitations, like short range and inadequate charging infrastructure, most people cannot. Our communities don’t have the money to put solar panels on their houses or buy expensive electric vehicles. For the foreseeable future, most of us must rely on dependable, affordable, petroleum-fueled cars and trucks to get to work and live our daily lives.
Many people spend hours commuting from relatively lower-cost homes to jobs in areas where the enormous cost of housing effectively prohibits them from short drives to work in electric vehicles. Average commutes from the Central Valley in particular are the longest in the nation, according to the Sacramento Bee. Thousands spend well over 20 hours a week commuting. And communities of color are disproportionately affected by long commutes across the state.
Spectacular electric vehicle advances, along with major price reductions might get some people to change vehicles, but at best, that is years away. Today, only about 400,000 of the 29 million vehicles in California are electric. We face an ever-increasing wealth gap in California and unsound policies will only quicken and exacerbate the problem.
The Latin Business Association (LBA) has a long history of supporting sustainable and sensible environmental policies. We will continue to work with California's oil and gas industry, legislators and other stakeholders to approach energy policy development mindfully and factually, ensuring a cost-effective energy future for our state. Our economy and hundreds of thousands of good middle-class jobs depend on a rational energy policy. The LBA advocates for the most effective and scientifically supported policies that balance environmental concerns with energy affordability and shared economic prosperity.
Ruben Guerra, chairman and CEO of the Latin Business Association, is president of Municipal Energy Solutions, a Los Angeles energy compliance company.