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Oct 15, 2007 - 01:00 AM

Fat Wallets Win Again

by Judy Dugan
A rumor briefly swirled yesterday that Gov. Schwarzenegger would veto a deceptive "biofuel development" bill pushed with the full force of Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuņez. That sounded too good to be true, and it was. Schwarzenegger signed the bill, AB118, in the final hours before his deadline for doing so -- the same way the bill was passed -- in the last overnight hours of the legislative session with no debate.

Once again the oil business gets its way in California politics, and the powers that be simply disregard the petroleum stench hanging over their actions. Schwarzenegger has taken $665,00 from Chevron Corporation since he was elected, including $100,000 in May as number of bills of interest to the oil industry were being introduced. (The Democratic Party notably accepted $50,000 from Chevron this spring for a fund specifically controlled by Nuņez. Chevron also gave $100,000 this year to the term limits ballot initiative backed by Nuņez that would give him extra years as Assembly Speaker.)

Bad enough that that the "biofuels" bill takes from taxpayers for research that the oil companies should be financing just to ensure their own futures. Worse that the money could go from working class pockets to oil companies (read: Chevron) raking in tens of billions of dollars in profit, year after year. And there's no guarantee that it will actually be spent on biofuels.

The bill's idea sounds green and good for kick-starting a young industry in California, just like last year's Proposition 87, narrowly defeated by voters after Chevron spent about $40 million to kill it (because it was funded by a modest fee on oil). But the Nuņez bill, instead of dinging oil companies for a few million bucks out of their tens of billions in profits, raises motorists' yearly car tax and car buyers' smog abatement fees.

Credit goes to courageous legislative staff experts, who refused to back down on their conclusion that the "development money" could go to Chevron (read their report here), and Sen. Alan Lowenthal, who saw the same thing and protested. The bill was passed in the last hours of the legislative session, with no chance to debate dubious amendments forced through the state Senate by Nuņez. Even Senate leader Don Perata admitted he was only doing what the Speaker demanded (Perata needed a favor from Nuņez on an equally smelly bill pushed by one of Perata's biggest campaign donors, in the ferry industry).

Schwarzenegger also signed another bill backed by Nuņez that will delay and possibly kill a fix to the "hot fuel" ripoff of motorists at the pump, by studying the issue to death and letting industry representatives help decide if it needs fixing.

The association that represents independent truckers, who each lose hundreds of dollars a year on hot fuel, begged Schwarzenegger to veto that one (as did OilWatchdog), but the truckers' group is based in Missouri -- not within Schwarzenegger's world view.

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