Vive La Corporation

During Governor Jerry Brown’s days in Paris attending climate negotiations, he called for nothing less than a revolutionary shift away from “this heavy commodification of our entire existence.” What drives that commodification, he said, is individualism and oil. What’s needed is “a life not based on oil, and a life not based on so much emphasis on the individual as opposed to the common good.”
 
Jerry Brown sure talks the talk, but he isn’t exactly walking the walk. In California, he is a defender of dangerous hydraulic fracturing, a fact that he was not anxious to display in France, a country that banned the practice in 2011.
 
Now we have an unstoppable leak of fracked gas in Porter Ranch courtesy of Southern California Gas that is sending more than a thousand families fleeing. The leak is so bad that the Federal Aviation Administration just restricted flights over Porter Ranch for fear of igniting fumes. Brown has consistently accommodated the oil industry, which has contributed generously to his campaigns. He earlier fired two oil regulators too slow in rubber-stamping fracking permits. Toothless regulation of the industry has led to widespread poisoning of aquifers. 
 
In fact, Brown is allowing the oil industry to drive laws, and not the other way around. In Paris, he said, “Inside the policy, you need a law, you need a rule, you need the coercive power of government to say ‘do this’…the fact is the regulations supported by the laws drive innovation.” 
 
So where was Brown at the eleventh hour when the oil industry used false scare tactics to get Democrats to cut the heart out of signature climate change legislation that would have slashed petroleum use in half by 2030? He wasn’t to be found anywhere in the trenches arm-twisting legislators.
 
But Brown should also be careful of electric utility blandishments. Also generous campaign contributors, electric utilities see big opportunity in green energy, as long as laws and regulations favor them. Pacific Gas & Electric helped send Brown and eight other California lawmakers to Paris via a donation to the non-profit Los Angeles group Climate Action Reserve. 
 
Brown should be vigilant about intervening where big electric utilities try to big foot green innovation. That means ensuring that PUC commissioners nurture the electric vehicle charging market by not allowing PG&E to take it over as part of its $653 billion plan to build electric vehicle infrastructure in its service territory. 
 
Brown should be telling his PUC not to allow PG&E to double its exit fee on customers transferring to local green energy programs that will directly compete with big investor-owned monopolies. He should tell them not to let utilities raise fees on rooftop solar owners, and cut payments to those who send power to the grid. Rooftop solar, and innovation in all forms of decentralized power generation, should be encouraged, and not the reverse. 
 
Of course investor-owned electric utilities want to keep as much of their monopoly as possible over electric generation.That’s exactly why we should fully count rooftop solar generation in California’s new renewable energy standard that mandates utilities generate half their electricity from green sources by 2030. Then, there would be less need to build big new plants. Instead, the legislature virtually left it out
 
Yes, compared to the rest of the world, California is a leader in global warming policies. But as long as we allow the coercive power of industry, whether it's the oil industry or the electric industry, to trump the coercive power of laws, the less of a true green revolution Brown will spark. Governor Brown can and should do better for California and the common good.

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