California Playbook


09/24/2019 09:19 AM EDT

THE BUZZ: Climate Week yesterday offered Gov. Gavin Newsom a global platform to tout California’s climate progress — and a reminder of the tricky political pressures environmental activists are putting on Newsom.

Inside a New York City convention hall, Newsom strode to the podium after the prime minister of Denmark and trumpeted the progress California has made — so much progress, he mused, that “there’s nothing left for me to sign,” given California’s “audacious” goal of 100 percent renewable energy generation.https://ce2fa74759a7cabf02bcb904cb691e16.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Protesters on both coasts have an idea: calling on Newsom to halt fracking and new drilling, a demand that former Gov. Jerry Brown fended off throughout his environmentally groundbreaking tenure. The dream for environmentalists and scores of elected officials is that Newsom flexes his executive muscle to cut back fossil fuel production — if not an outright extraction ban, then perhaps more stringent requirements that wells be a certain distance from homes and schools (as would have been required by a bill whose death this year was a triumph for both the energy industry and labor).

The counterarguments to aggressive action are usually economic: that too many California jobs, including union ones, rely on the fossil fuel industry. Newsom has indicated he thinks that argument is rapidly becoming obsolete, last week saying as he slammed Donald Trump for revoking California’s auto emissions powers, that the oil industry is “coming to an end” and that California can be “on the right side of this hinge moment.” Yesterday, Newsom said that the growth of renewable energy jobs was so outpacing fossil fuel jobs here that “alternative energy in the state of California is fossil fuel energy.” He said last year that “a future free of fossil fuels and fracking” is within sight.

But Newsom also demonstrated he wants to limit the potential economic fallout. While in Kern County this July — the epicenter of California’s still substantial fossil fuel sector — Newsom noted that “this is an economy that helped build this state” and was supplying revenue that supports schools and peoples’ ability to feed their families. Newsom has made a consistent effort to talk about the Central Valley, where higher poverty rates coexist with a greater economic role for the ag and oil sectors, and in talking about workers there he vowed to “protect their economic interests” even as California charges toward a green future.

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