California should reinstitute a plan to cut petroleum use


Hon-Lum Cheung-Cheng, Contributing writer

Earlier this month, California’s state Senate dropped a provision of an environmental protection bill that called for a 50 percent cut in the state’s petroleum use by 2030. State Senate President Kevin De Leon cited opposition created by oil companies’ multimillion-dollar campaign against the measure as the reason behind the decision. The campaign referred to the legislation as the “California Gas Restriction Act of 2015” and included television, radio and print advertising that depicted a dystopian lifestyle after a reduction in the state’s petroleum use. Despite abandoning this plan, California Gov. Jerry Brown continued to emphasize his vision for California to “lead the fight in curbing greenhouse gas emissions.” With that goal in mind, California ought to reinstitute a plan to cut petroleum use, an action that will also provide economic benefits.

Petroleum is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in both California and the United States as a whole. According to the California Environmental Protection Agency, the production, refinement and usage of petroleum accounts for approximately half of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. A buildup of these gases in the atmosphere leads to global warming and changes in rain patterns. In the past, this has decreased agricultural productivity and caused flooding, droughts and wildfires. Considering the 2011 Somalian famine, the flash flood in Utah last week and the ongoing forest fires in northern California, it is necessary to take immediate action in preventing Global Climate Change and its adverse side effects.

Dependence on petroleum has hefty costs for California and the nation as a whole. While domestic production has gradually reduced oil imports, our dependence still costs the nation approximately $192 billion a year and California approximately $33 to $55 billion a year. While some claim that a reduction in petroleum use will hamper the economy, cutting petroleum use will likely provide economic benefits instead. Decreasing the use of petroleum would also lead to a decrease in government spending on health problems related to air pollutants, as petroleum is the source of many smog-forming particles.
California can also consider expanding its mass transit systems and provide additional incentives to manufacturers for developing technology that reduces the need for petroleum and consumers for using fuel-efficient and alternative fuel vehicles. In addition, California can also enact additional legislatures that indirectly decrease oil dependence and continue to educate its residents about changes that they can make in their lifestyles to cut the need for petroleum. As one of the largest consumers of oil in the United States and a global leader in climate change, California ought to reinstitute a plan to reduce petroleum use and set an example for both other states and other countries.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. 

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, September 21 print edition. Email Hon-Lum Cheung-Cheng at [email protected].