As Gov. Newsom touts Calif. ZEV sales, Big Oil interest groups target working families; Roll back of SB 1137?

Yesterday, Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that in the third quarter of 2023, zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) sales statewide increased. For the three months ending September 30, 26.2 percent of all news vehicle sales were ZEV, up from 25.4 percent in the previous quarter. 

"We've made it easier and cheaper than ever for folks to transition to clean cars, and it's continuing to produce real results. This progress represents less pollution in our air from burning fossil fuel," Newsom said in yesterday's announcement. "This is critical progress in our fight against climate change while expanding our clean energy economy."

Even though big oil continues to dominate capital politics with its substantial monetary influence and the many drilling permits awarded, they are now targeting California voters. Heading the effort is a group called Californians for Affordable and Reliable Energy (CARE), who is gearing up their political activity.

In addition to a series of TV commercials giving the appearance that CARE is advocating for working Californians, the group has started sending mailers in advance of next year's primary and general elections. In a clear shot at ZEVs, and specifically electric vehicles, the mailer displayed above and below claims without citation, electric rates have increased by 58 percent while supply only increased by two percent.

The implication is clear - electricity is unrealiable and Californians need more gasoline, and it should be cheaper. Naturally, this glosses over the fact that Californian motorists are the golden goose for Big Oil profits.  

Beyond the existential threat ZEVs pose to Big Oil, something else is in play. There is a multi-pronged effort to roll back Senate Bill 1137 while casting shade on ZEVs.

Signed into law by Newsom, the legislation establishes minimum setbacks of drilling operations from home and schools. Interestingly, before SB 1137 established 3,200 feet setbacks, unlike energy regulation-adverse states like Texas and Wyoming that had setbacks, California had none.

In a pushback on the setback law, Big Oil gathered enough signatures to place a rollback of the new regulation on the November 2024 ballot. Critics of the signature-gathering effort claimed it was rife with misinformation.

While homelessness will undoubtedly be the most significant campaign issue next year, be prepared for an onslaught of TV advertisements and mailers on this topic. After all, Big Oil has big money to fund a big multi-million dollar campaign to convince voters they are looking out for them.    

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