San Francisco’s billionaire environmental activist and Democrat mega-donor Tom Steyer joined a group of consumer advocates supporting a California Senate investigation to determine if an “oligopoly” is the reason the price of California regular gasoline at $3.19 a gallon is $.78 higher than the national average, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Given that the policies and taxes advocated by the oligopoly of Democrats, environmentalists and consumer advocates that Tom Steyer leads has resulted in California oil production falling by one-third in the last 7 years, it should not be complicated to understand why California pay the most.
Steyer made part of his $1 billion fortune by investing in fossil fuels, before forming his advocacy group NextGen Climate Action and committing to spend up to $100 million fighting fossil fuels’ impact on climate change. When asked why now opposing the industry is not hypocritical, he described his newfound activism as “my personal version of a “Paul on the road to Damascus” moment.
Before anointing himself as an Apostle and leaving in 2012, Steyer was the Senior Hedge Fund Managing Partner for San Francisco’s Farallon Capital Management. One of the reasons that Steyer may have left the hedge fund business in 2012 was over a report by the San Diego Reader detailing Steyer’s investments in fossil fuel companies. It was later learned from SEC reporting that Farallon had 10 percent of its capital invested in $440 million worth of oil, natural gas and coal company stock.
Steyer knows that in 1920s, California was the largest crude oil producer in the U.S. and the world. When Vice President Al Gore convinced the Democrat Party in 1995 to oppose fossil fuels based on the planet running out of the commodity, 92 percent of the crude oil for California refineries came from California and Alaska, while only 8 percent of crude supply was imported. But when Steyer left Farallon in 2012, about 40 percent of California’s oil supply was imported, mostly from Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
Last year, the U.S. experienced the largest annual increase in crude oil production for any country in history and production doubled in the last 7 years. But California’s production uniquely was unchanged last year and is down by a third in the last 7 years.
After the California Legislative Analyst’s Office raised questions in 2012 about the jobs AB 32 “cap and trade” legislation was supposed to create, Steyer claimed that “Since AB32 was passed; $3 billion in venture capital has been spent in California.” Steyer added that California “has been a place that has led intellectual and economic revolutions,” including aerospace, the Internet, and predicted that it would produce 500,000 clean-tech jobs.
A big piece of that $3 billion investment in clean-tech companies went down in flames with the loss of $545 million of venture capital and thousands of jobs at solar panel maker Solyndra. Other high visibility clean-tech companies with activities in California have cumulatively lost billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs, including Abound Energy, Beacon Power, Fisker, V.P.G., Range Fuels, Ener1, A123. ECOtality.
The lack of local crude oil supply is providing an opportunity for railroads to make fortunes shipping 100-tank-car oil trains loaded with crude 2,000 miles from North Dakota’s Bakken Field to California for $17 a barrel. The rate is about 2.5 times higher than the normal rail rates for liquids, due to the higher danger from fiery accidents.
Tupper Hull, a spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association responded to Steyer’s letter, according to the Bee: “We have a sheet of several dozen investigations over the last 25 years, and they all reach the same conclusion: This product [gasoline], like other very competitive commodities, is quite sensitive to supply and demand imbalances. And when there are imbalances, the market responds very quickly and very decisively.”
Steyer and Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León are leading interest groups that are demanding greenhouse gas reduction legislation that would reduce petroleum use in cars by as much as 50 percent by 2030. Steyer has also threatened to fund an oil-extraction tax to force petroleum users to cut back usage.
Steyer and his oligopolistic coalition have done everything possible to drive up gasoline costs in California. But it is doubtful they will ask the California Senate to investigate what responsibility Democrats, environmentalists, consumer advocates and Tom Steyer have for that result.