Advice from Crazifornia to Texas

I strayed a bit far afield in my most recent opinion piece in The Daily Caller, focusing on an environmental story out of Texas. But there’s a connection – what oil producers in Texas are facing at the hands of radical environmentalists is exactly what California went through a few years back when the Natural Resources Defense Council tried to stop land development in Southern California by seeking the listing of the California gnatcatcher as an endangered species.

In that battle, which I was deeply involved with on behalf of developers, we ultimately prevailed thanks to intervention from a most unlikely source: a newly elected president by the name of Bill Clinton.  Do you think the Texas oil producers can count on Barack Obama to extend a helping hand?

Here’s how the Daily Caller piece gets started:

There couldn’t be a better friend to radical anti-oil environmentalists than the sand dune lizard. No, wait. Perhaps the alternative energy true believers in the federal government, from the president down, are even better friends to the radicals. We’ll know soon enough, thanks to a fight that’s pitting lizards against oil producers.

The sand dune lizard caught the eye of environmentalists because it lives exclusively in the Texas and New Mexico counties located in the Permian Basin, the most productive energy-producing land in the Lower 48. As such, it is probably the single best species to latch onto if you want to stop much of our domestic oil and natural gas production in its tracks, since there’s nothing like an endangered species listing to keep people from doing much on the listed critter’s habitat.

Please click through to read the rest – it’s guaranteed 100 percent interesting and The Daily Caller would sure like to see you pop onto their website!

Crazifornia Exclusive! Jerry Brown, Oil Baron

I’ve done a lot of interviews researching the Crazifornia Project; this one was by far the most interesting.  There’s a lot more to this story, but this op/ed – indicative of the kind of things you’ll read in Crazifornia – appeared in the Washington Times on-line edition on April 16, 2009.

Pearce:  Jerry Brown, Oil Baron

Little-known Foreign Oil Holdings Might Tint Decisions

By Laer Pearce

When Jerry Brown recently held his first fundraiser as an official candidate for governor, he chose as the venue the Sacramento apartment where he lived the last time he held that office, after famously declining to live in the governor’s mansion. Faced with multimillionaire Republican opponents, Mr. Brown wants to be seen as just a regular public employee, trying to hold his own against tycoons at the top of America’s wealth disparity. While politically expedient, the image of Jerry Brown as everyman is patently false.

Mr. Brown has a lot of money – how much exactly is not public – and unhappily for his environmentalist and global-warming-alarmist supporters, it’s oil money. Even more unhappily for his campaign managers, it’s money that may have led him to an attack against California’s largest employer and a rewriting of state regulations to feather the family nest.

Sacramento Bee political columnist Dan Walters spent months researching the source of the Brown family wealth 30 years ago and recently shared the story with me in his small office crowded with family pictures, catty-cornered from the Capitol.

In a nutshell: After Jerry’s father, Pat, left the governorship in 1967, he was introduced to the Indonesian generals who had just overthrown the country’s post-colonial dictator, Sukarno, and set up a military junta. The former governor was able to cobble together a consortium of banks that lent $12 billion to the junta – “a lot of money in the late ’60s,” Mr. Walters said. The banks were interested in the immense Royal Dutch Shell petroleum holdings in Indonesia, which Sukarno had nationalized and the junta controlled.

The grateful generals then set up two trading firms – one in Hong Kong and one in California – that handled the oil-exporting paperwork and were rewarded with a fee for each barrel, “a little taste, as they might say in the Mafia,” Mr. Walters said with a grin. Pat Brown was given 100 percent ownership of the California brokerage and half-ownership of the Hong Kong office. The deal was a very lucrative one because California’s early clean-air standards set a sulfur limit for the fuel burned in power plants – a limit only the clean, low-sulfur oil from Indonesia could meet.

Jerry Brown, alone among the Brown children, didn’t get a share of the business, but that changed after Alaskan oil came on the scene and threatened the monopoly Indonesian oil had in California’s power plants.

Chevron had just finished building a refinery in El Segundo that was designed to process Alaskan crude to compete against Indonesian oil for the California power-plant market. Before the facility could refine a barrel of North Slope crude, however, Jerry Brown’s Air Resources Board – headed up by his former campaign manager, Tom Quinn – passed a new air-quality standard for sulfur just barely too high for Chevron to meet with Alaskan oil. That cemented the Indonesian monopoly, and the Brown family, as the only oil provider to the California power industry.

Not surprisingly, when Jerry Brown left the governorship, Pat Brown finally gave him his own cut of the family oil business.

“To this day, Jerry’s very sensitive about it,” Mr. Walters told me. “He just hates the idea that people will bring it up because what it is, is the Brown family is in partnership with these corrupt, murderous dictators. It’s not something that a Jerry Brown wants to be associated with.”

The junta generals of Pat Brown’s day have given way to the more transparent, democratic government that rules in Indonesia today. The question here in California is: Will Jerry Brown also become more transparent and share with voters the details of this foreign influence on his personal finances?

Laer Pearce is a 30-year public-affairs professional currently involved in the Crazifornia Project, chronicling egregious policies responsible for tarnishing the Golden State.