Jerry Brown Wants to Be a Climate Leader – and Frack for a Lot of Oil

2013.11.11.Jerry_Brown.MainCalifornia Governor Jerry Brown (photo: Thomas Hawk)

By Claire Sandberg, Truthout

California Governor Jerry Brown talks a big game on climate change. 

Earlier this year, Brown released a 20-page consensus statement signed by 500 scientists from 44 countries calling for immediate and steep reductions in carbon emissions. Standing onstage beside NASA climate scientist James Hansen to unveil the document at a Silicon Valley tech conference this May, Brown warned that the window for meaningful action on climate change was quickly closing: “If it’s like this five years from now, it’s over,” he told the assembled reporters.

Since then, Brown has signed new solar and electric car legislation and even traveled to Beijing to broker a nonbinding climate agreement with the Chinese government. The 75-year-old, third-term governor is fond of pointing to such a record and challenging national politicians to take California’s lead. But if elected officials around the country follow Brown’s example when it comes to fracking, all Brown’s efforts to stop catastrophic climate change will be for nothing.

In August, Brown gave his blessing to a dramatic expansion of fracking in California’s massive oil shale formations, which underlie a large area of the state from Southern to Central California. The fracking bill Brown signed into law, SB4, ensures that fracking will move forward unimpeded for at least the next two years, and exempts fracking from thorough review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the state’s bedrock environmental law. 

How Brown reconciles his stance on climate with his support for fracking has been the question environmentalists have challenged him to answer in recent months. The contrast was on full display in San Francisco on October 28, at the signing of another new climate pact, between California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Inside the ceremony at the offices of Cisco Systems, Brown proclaimed global warming “the world’s greatest existential challenge.” On the street outside, anti-fracking protestors chanted, “Climate leaders don’t frack!” 

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