As Governor Jerry Brown is in Paris urging other political leaders to follow his lead in curbing global warming, the chief executive of California’s largest oil company said the state’s policies “unambiguously raise energy costs and do nothing about greenhouse-gas emissions.”
Chevron Corp. Chief Executive Officer John Watson said environmentalists have misdirected their energies toward California and other industrialized economies instead of targeting the largest polluters in the developing world. He spoke Tuesday at the Milken Institute’s California Summit in Marina Del Rey as Brown, a Democrat, warned fellow attendees of the UN-sponsored climate conference in Paris that inaction on greenhouse gas emissions would lead to global disaster.
Watson, who heads California’s eighth-largest company by market value, dismissed state laws requiring greenhouse gas emission levels return to 1990 levels by 2020 and establishing a cap-and-trade market to auction pollution credits. He said hydraulic fracturing of natural gas and improvements in internal-combustion engines are responsible for more reductions in carbon emissions than any government policies. He said that California is responsible for just 1 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions.
“The rest of it is noise,” Watson said. “I’ll give you an example. The United States has an economy that’s twice the size of China’s. But they’re emitting twice the greenhouse gases of the United States. The low-hanging fruit is around the world.”
San Ramon-based Chevron has spent $3.3 million this year lobbying California lawmakers, much of it on a successful effort to defeat a provision of a bill that would have mandated a 50 percent reduction in gasoline use by 2030. Brown supported the provision.
Watson in August passed on an invitation to debate billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, who championed the bill. Steyer, the founder of Farallon Capital Management, has dedicated himself to combating climate change through political advocacy.
Asked about Steyer at the Milken conference, Watson didn’t respond directly but said wealthy advocates support policies that lead to higher costs that they can easily afford, while average consumers bear the burden.