Op-Ed: We can’t afford to shutter California’s aging oil refineries yet, so we have to act soon
Californians could pay for the repairs for their crumbling aging refineries or even shut them down altogether. But they haven’t. That’s because the state is in the middle of a fiscal crisis that’s caused the state to cut taxes drastically, and that’s also a factor in many of the refineries’ maintenance programs.
The Legislature this year passed a tax-funded budget to put at least some of the state’s ailing refineries into good (or at least serviceable) shape. But even as the Legislature is raising taxes and extending the state’s payroll tax, the cost of fixing the refineries is increasing. Gov. Jerry Brown has promised to repair the refineries, but not yet.
The refineries in California are not well-oiled machines. They are old. They leak. They overheat their fuel. They need a new lease on life. But we are not paying to fix them.
We are paying because the state budget continues to cut taxes. Cutting taxes is hard (even if the tax cuts are passed on to voters next month). If it is hard, even tougher.
And right now, the state is trying to squeeze its budget by making reductions in education and health care, among many other state services, before turning to tax relief.
California’s energy-intensive economy is what keeps the state’s economy humming. That’s why the state’s economy is so sensitive to the state’s energy costs. This sensitivity is reflected in California’s declining oil imports from other countries, which means a smaller energy bill the state buys from those countries. That has not been good news for California’s economy.
The state is not alone in the economic dilemma. Most of America’s state economies are facing it, too. The economic problems that plague the nation are now here, too.
Now is the time to act.
The public needs to be engaged in the debate about California’s oil refineries. We need to show that we will not cave into the pressure of lobbyists, the power of special interest groups and the short-term political whims of legislators.