California Gas Prices: A Rigged Game Where Consumers Lose Big

By Liza Tucker

Who would want two companies, Tesoro and Chevron, to control more than half of California's gasoline market? Only people, like oil company executives, who think paying five dollars a gallon should be the new normal.

That could happen, though, if a deal goes through for Tesoro to buy BP's refinery in Carson and its low-cost Arco brand. In California, the ninth largest economy in the world, gasoline refineries have shrunk from 32 in the mid-1980s to just 14, owned by only a handful of companies. The more consolidated a market, the more tempting it is to make more money by producing and selling less gasoline. California's gasoline market is so consolidated that it is now geared to shortages and scarcity, which is why a few refinery outages and some scheduled refinery maintenance can cause a price spike of the sort you should only see in the wake of a real disaster.

Climate Change: Mad Weather, Insane Policies

By Rev. Jim Conn

Despite the conventional wisdom that Southern California only has one season, some wag suggested it does indeed have four: Fires, floods, earthquakes and riots. So far this year we've had none of those, for which I am grateful, and I hope our luck holds.

I say luck because Los Angeles County leads the state in fire risk. Of the million homes in California in high-risk fire areas, half are in our county. Seven of the 10 most expensive fires in the U.S. since 1990 have been in California, and insurers paid some $5 billion in wildfire claims in 2003, 2007 and 2008.

Walton Family Foundation Sunk $71.4 Million into Greenwashing Schemes

By Dan Bacher

Much recent media attention has focused on Walmart's announcement that it is canceling Thanksgiving plans for many of its employees. These workers will now have to work on the holiday as the retail giant kicks off its holiday sale at 8 PM on Thanksgiving Day, rather than waiting until midnight on "Black Friday."

Prop 37 Narrowly Defeated by Corporate Millions, Deceptive Ads

By Dan Bacher

Fishermen, environmentalists and consumer advocates were disappointed - but not surprised - by the narrow defeat of Proposition 37, the initiative calling for the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food in California, on November 6.

GE food opponents said they will be ramping up the campaign across the country to make GE labeling the law in the coming year and are already organizing in over a dozen states.

"Complicit" San Francisco Voters Reject Plan to Restore Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy

By Dan Aiello

In San Francisco a local initiative put forth by environmentalists to return the Hetch Hetchy Valley to Yosemite Park for restoration by expanding the lower Don Pedro Dam was soundly defeated by voters, calling into question a long-held political belief that the city's electorate is 'Green' or progressive.

With all precincts reporting, San Francisco voters rejected the Measure to restore the valley John Muir called "one of the most precious mountain temples that ought to be faithfully guarded." It is said that it was Muir's loss to preserve the valley that contributed to his early death.

How Long Before Life-Endangering Air Pollution Becomes A Top-of-Mind Concern?

By Alan Kandel

Houston: We (California) have a problem, a Texas-sized problem.

With the climate change debate front-page news, the fight to combat air pollution is every bit as important in my book; perhaps even more so. If not, what is this saying?

California's San Joaquin Valley is the place I call home. The Valley is among the nation's worst offenders.

So that which is being spewed into the air in California's central interior, where is it coming from? The following is from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

Delta Leaders Line Up in Opposition of "Water Tunnels" Plan

By Dan Bacher

On October 24, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA) hosted a press conference in Sacramento urging more federal support for levees in rural parts of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and calling for a statewide cost-benefit analysis of the controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).

Joined by a bipartisan coalition of local leaders representing diverse Delta communities, Garamendi, a Member of the House Natural Resources Committee and former Deputy U.S. Interior Secretary under President Bill Clinton, said the cost-benefit analysis is necessary to ensure the plan does not cause harm to Northern California farming, fishing, and tourism.

Westlands Masquerades as "Tea Party" in Attack on Delta Film

By Dan Bacher

The Westlands Water District, regarded as the poster child of government-subsidized corporate agribusiness in California, is apparently posing as the anti-tax, anti-big government "Central Valley Tea Party" in an attack on Restore the Delta's documentary Over Troubled Waters.

In a statement, Restore the Delta (RTD) on October 3 exposed the effort by Westlands, one of the largest beneficiaries of taxpayer subsidies, for "masquerading" as the "Central Valley Tea Party" to instigate opposition to RTD's film documenting the public subsidies of water for huge, unsustainable corporate agribusiness on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

RTD is a well-respected coalition of farmers, fishermen, environmentalists and business owners dedicated to a fair water policy in California.

Federal Government Runs out of Money to Fight Fires, Pays for It By Cutting Fire Prevention Programs

By David Dayen

Here's a story at the intersection of catastrophic climate change and austerity.

Because of the constant burning of carbon into the atmosphere and the resulting changes to the weather and climate, the US has experienced more and more wildfires over the past several years. In fact, this has been the worst wildfire season on record.

Will California Reap Growth Rewards with the Sustainable Communities Strategies Initiative?

By Alan Kandel

Houston: We (California) have a problem, a Texas-sized problem.

California used to be the envy of the country - at one time, maybe of the world even. Ours was the land of plenty; it still is. The Golden State's number one industry - agriculture - is a cornucopia, a veritable cash crop to the tune of $32 billion per year - handily. The central San Joaquin Valley's contribution, incidentally, is about half.

But where acre after productive acre of the highest quality farmland once existed, much has been paved over. And left in its wake: sprawl, traffic congestion and deleterious air pollution. And the dirty air is pervasive. How problematic is it?