LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — As Gov. Jerry Brown prepares to travel to Rome next week for an international climate conference, the debate over a bill aimed at reducing gas usage in California is heating up.
Brown fully supports SB-350, which would mandate a 50-percent cutback in California's gas usage in the next 15 years, arguing that it's a prime factor in global warming.
"We've got a serious problem here," he told KCAL9 Political Reporter Dave Bryan via satellite. "Burning oil and gas and coal and diesel is a big part of the problem. We've got to find new bio-fuels. We have to be more efficient. We've got a lot to do. And by the way, if we do nothing, the cost is unimaginable."
"We think this is reckless legislation and one that people certainly need to be aware of because it'll impact every single motorist in the state of California," Tupper Hull of the Western States Petroleum Association said via Skype.
Critics charge the bill provides no specific plan to achieve the massive cutback in gas usage. That would be left up to the California Air Resources Board, which those critics, like the oil industry say, would have no limits on what it could mandate.
The impact on Californians, they argue, could be devastating.
"What are they supposed to do to get to work? To get their kids to school?" asked Hull. "What is supposed to replace all of this gasoline and diesel that's gonna be taken out of the system?"
"Well, of course, the people who are gonna sell 50 percent less petroleum are not only gonna have questions, they're gonna have a fierce, unrelenting opposition. So, let's be clear about that," said Brown.
Cutting gas consumption in half, though, may be especially difficult in the Los Angeles area, where sitting in traffic jams is a long hated ritual and the rapid transit system is still decades away from being a truly comprehensive regional people mover, like New York or Chicago have.
While the oil industry have been leading the charge and criticizing the bill, Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, a Democrat from West Covina, was quoted in The Los Angeles Times as questioning whether an appointed board should be making the rules for cutting gas consumption, charging the bill would give them a blank check of unregulated and unlimited power over the lives of Californians.
In an interview, Brown asked in response: who do you want regulating the consumption? The oil companies?
"You saw what they did and what? Did gasoline go up 80 cents in the last week? Who's regulating that? Well, the companies were. So, you can have a company regulate or you can have an agency of government," Brown said, adding: "You need an authority within government to set the conditions of survivability."
The bill appears to be well on its way to passage having already cleared the state Senate and some Assembly committees, but the debate over how to cut in half California's dependency on gas by 2030 is possibly just beginning.
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