In California, the powerful petroleum lobby scored a victory just before the end of the legislature’s regular session in September, causing lawmakers to strike the clause in Senate Bill (SB) 350 that would have cut California’s oil use in half over the next 15 years.
Despite an active myth-busters campaign from the Governor’s office, in the end, Big Oil’s scare mongering and deep pockets helped things go their way. Sadly, in addition to tackling climate change in a state that has been on fire for months, reducing petroleum use represents one of the best ways to help clean up the dirty air that is harming our kids’ lungs. This is especially important because here in Southern California we have the worst smog in the country.
According to the American Lung Association in its State of the Air Report 2015, children face special risks from air pollution because their lungs are growing and because they are so active. The report shows that teenagers who grow up in more polluted areas face increased risk of having underdeveloped lungs, which may never recover to their full capacity. The average drop in lung function was 20 percent below what was expected for the child’s age, similar to the impact of growing up in a home with parents who smoke. Kids who have asthma, like mine do, could have their symptoms worsen, resulting in permanent lung damage or premature death. The good news is that recent studies show that reducing pollution could reverse these effects on our children’s health.
With the stakes as high as protecting our children’s growing lungs from harm, why on earth would we NOT want to reduce petroleum use, which in turn would reduce air pollution and the curb the effects of climate change?
The answer is, Americans DO want stricter air pollution controls. A recent American Lung Association survey showed that an overwhelming majority — 73 percent – of voters support the EPA placing stricter limits on the amount of ozone pollution, or smog. Parents are vocalizing their support for change, but there’s an unwillingness by our legislators to drastically cut oil use. This only protects Big Oil.
Despite the temporary demise of this oil cut, other important provisions of SB350 that will reduce air pollution were passed – including targets for 50% renewable energy and doubling the energy efficiency of existing buildings by 2030. These tenets, in combination with existing provisions from AB32, California’s landmark climate legislation, will help toward reducing air pollution.
Other parts of the country look to California for leadership because of our huge economic and political might. Governor Brown vows to redouble efforts in the fight against air pollution and climate change despite Big oil. He recently spoke at the UN General Assembly to again acceptance for his “Under2MOU,” which bring together states and regions willing to commit to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. This will galvanize actionat the COP21 in Paris this December.
“The only thing different is my zeal has been intensified to a maximum degree, and nothing, nothing is going to stop this state from pushing forward.” ~ CA. Governor Jerry Brown