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By Chris White
California Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent belligerent actions against the Trump administration’s climate policies have not been enough to satisfy natural gas opponents.
Brown recently signed a bill that dramatically increases California’s gas taxes and declared earlier this year his intention to fight tooth-and-nail against President Donald Trump’s climate policies. Anti-fracking activists are not impressed.
“The state needs to move to an economy with 100 percent clean energy and get out of oil,” Dan Jacobson, legislative director for Environment California, told reporters earlier this month. “The governor needs to play a leadership role in getting us off oil.”
Jacobson referenced Brown’s unwillingness to ban hydraulic fracking in the Golden State, believing that the governor’s decision to embrace the natural gas industry could potentially lead to the very environmental disasters that Brown is trying to avoid.Other activists have struck a more critical note, suggesting that Brown’s position on fracking makes him a phony climate warrior.
“It’s hypocritical for Brown to call himself a climate leader,” Catherine Garoupa White of Californians Against Fracking told reporters in April. According to White, the governor’s support for fracking “is a huge smear on Brown’s green record.”
Brown dismissed their concerns and argued that a ban on fracking would not help his state defeat man-made global warming.
“As we bring down consumption, we can bring down production,” he told a crowd in Sacramento earlier this month, adding that Californians drive about 330 billion miles a year in gas-powered vehicles, so eliminating their only source for energy “doesn’t makes sense.”
California produces only 30 percent of its own oil, he said, so the rest of the state’s energy needs must be transported from other countries and states. There is no guarantee that those areas will hold the same animus to the fracking industry as Brown’s state.
White and Jacobson’s criticisms come after Brown signed a law in April imposing a 12 cents per gallon hike on citizens and raises the tax on diesel fuel by 20 cents a gallon. It also implements an additional charge to annual vehicle license fees ranging from $25 to $175 depending on the car’s value.
Their arguments might also eat away at Brown’s title as California’s top climate warrior. He told reporters in December that the state would launch its own climate-reading satellites if Trump followed through on threats to pull funding for NASA’s climate research program.
Brown’s anti-fracking critics main argument against natural gas production is that it poses a risk to the climate – yet, research suggests the natural gas has done more to reduce carbon emissions than coal and green energy.
U.S. carbon emissions, for instance, declined by about 2.6 percent in 2015 and fell an additional 1.7 percent in 2016, mostly because of the country’s dramatic shift to natural gas production. Fracking slashed emissions in the U.S. more than solar or wind power, according to a study published last November by the Manhattan Institute.
Global natural gas production emits only 219 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses, or about 3 percent of the current total, according to U.S. inventory of greenhouse gases.