The UN Climate Summit, the COP meeting, is currently underway in Bonn Germany. At that meeting California’s Gov. Jerry Brown told a group of native americans protesting his stance on Fracking “Let’s put you in the ground so we can get on with the show here.” That’s caused a bit of ruckus, with some claiming this shows Gov. Brown’s true colors due to his long-running support of Fracking. It seems that no matter how many ways Gov. Brown supports a clean environment, efforts to combat climate change, and clean energy technologies, that we find fault with him, especially on the Fracking issue. In an interview at the COP meeting with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman (the video is at the bottom), Brown made an interesting argument that oil production should happen in the USA and that we must also go full-steam-ahead on electric cars and clean energy technologies.
As for the “let’s put you in the ground” quip, Brown dismissed this as he was trying to make a joke. Maybe that was one of those jokes that ring hollow, and you fall flat on your face for saying a crazy thing and you try to make it into a joke. In the clip shown here he didn’t sound like a person making a joke. He sounded like someone looking to keep giving the speech he was making.
That he said this to a group of native americans is problematic. Gov. Brown is a white guy, and there’s a long history of white guys murdering non-whites like native americans. Yes, Jerry Brown has done lots and lots of wonderful things and is surely a strong supporter of native american rights. Still, it’s a white guy telling a group of native americans a statement (“let’s put you in the ground”) that would involve some violence and death and being buried. Really? If that was meant to be a joke, it was in poor taste.
But let’s put that aside, because what’s interesting is the next thing Gov. Brown said to Amy Goodman.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you apologize for that comment?
GOV. JERRY BROWN: No. Come on, you know that, in California, we have the strongest Native American policy of any state in the country. And we have the most environmental, and we have toughest rules on oil. I don’t think we should shut down oil in California and then take it from Venezuela or take it from places where the rules are even worse. We have to stop the cars. We have to get electric. We have to get public transportation. We need better land use. We’ve got to solve the problem. And I understand, because we deal with protest all the time. But California, we are cutting our oil consumption. We’re cutting our greenhouse gases. That’s what we have to do, not just a slogan or a march around or talk talk. I’m talking about reality. And California has the strongest oil reduction rules in America. We’re the ones—we’re the leader. If someone wants to say, “Oh, get rid of oil,” you mean get rid of our cars. If you got rid of cars, you would have a revolution, and there would be shooting in the streets.
AMY GOODMAN: They were calling on a ban on fracking, like New York and Maryland.
GOV. JERRY BROWN: No, they were calling on a banning of all oil production.
AMY GOODMAN: But also fracking. What is your approach to that?
GOV. JERRY BROWN: My answer is: I don’t think it makes sense to import oil by train. It’s very dangerous. And people who say, “Hey, don’t take oil out of your ground. Bring it by train or by boat,” that’s far more dangerous. The answer is stop using oil in cars, in trucks. You need a renewable vehicle grid. That’s the answer. And I think to say anything else is not intellectually honest and is not helpful.
AMY GOODMAN: Fracking is a very serious issue, as you know.
GOV. JERRY BROWN: Fracking is very serious. And horizontal fracking is very dangerous and uses 10 times the water. And in California, it’s a very small part. What I’m talking about, we’d like to get rid of all oil drilling. But we have to do it in a systematic way, reducing the demand and not just the supply, because if we don’t reduce the demand, we’ll get the supply by boat and by train, and that is really dangerous to human beings. People die from the training of—bringing in of oil. So that’s the honest truth. I don’t know whether that is something you’re going to want to deal with, but I’m telling you the way it is.
Think about what Gov. Brown has said here. That we need to look at the whole picture, and we need to approach this in a healthy process.
For example, environmental rules and the regulations around oil production in the USA is pretty strong. We don’t know what the Trump Administration will do to those rules, but as they stand right now the regulations are strong. Lots stronger than in Venezuela or other countries with lax regulations.
Therefore if we’re going to still use fossil-fuel-driven vehicles, maybe it’s better that the oil is produced in California where we have strong regulations. Maybe.
You might be thinking, California isn’t an oil producing region. That’s not correct.
During the trip in which I saw, and reviewed, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata PHEV, Hyundai put us up in a hotel in downtown Huntington Beach. While wandering around I came across these oil wells scattered around the neighborhood. After some yahoogling, I found there’s an oil field formation underneath Los Angeles and that 100 years ago oil production had been a big thing in that area. Nowadays the urban oil wells are pretty much dry, but they’re still operating.
Given the horrendous amount of carcinogenic chemicals in crude oil, I can only imagine the health impacts on the neighborhood to have an operating oil well next door to ones house.
Bottom line is that, like Gov. Jerry Brown said, we need to move to electric cars and other related technologies. Under his guidance, California is moving rapidly in that direction. Gov. Brown is attending the UN Climate Change Summit as a way to make it clear to that community that not everyone in the USA is marching in line with the fossil-fuel-friendly ways of the Trump Administration. That’s all good. I largely agree with Gov. Brown on all those points.
This point – oil drilling in California versus in Venezuela – I’ll have to ponder this some more.
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I assume you’ve written this to be provocative, because otherwise this was a small dust-up working to obscure the far greater issue of CO2 reduction: but what the hell, I’ll bite.
1. Brown is wrong to support fracking as he does, because it is indeed bad for water use, bad for potable water, and bad for atmospheric greenhouse gases due to methane release. Further, fracking is fairly unnecessary as there is already a lot of natural gas production, and that will not be ceasing regardless of California’s activities. Lastly, natural gas is increasingly unnecessary for California’s electricity production, as it is being replaced by renewables.
2. Brown was right to shout down those idiots. First, those idiots were rude, and I don’t mind when bad things happen to rude people. Second, apparently those idiots don’t realize that Brown, while imperfect, is so vastly better than 99% of American politicians. Third, those idiots don’t seem to realize how this sort of thing is amplified (thanks, Amy, you fell0w idiot, for the amplification) and detracts from the important message Brown was delivering.
3. There is a tremendously important saying: “the perfect should not become the enemy of the good.” Life will indeed disappoint you through its imperfection. Get over your bad self, and go out and make things as good as you can.
Like every posting I make nowadays – I’m writing because I see something to write about. Namely, the bits Gov. Brown said about whether it’s best to extract oil in places where regulations are strong, or regulations are weak. My tendency would be to be with those protesters and pushing for a complete ban on Fracking. Especially in California where we can’t afford that usage of water, and we certainly can’t afford any human-induced earthquakes. But he has an interesting point to make.