Valero ‘Eve of Destruction’ Was a Big Fake

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Oil refiner Valero, as it pumped $5 million into a California ballot proposition aimed at killing climate change regulation, warned that such regulation would bring an economic Armageddon of lost jobs in refineries and elsewhere, as well as unaffordable energy prices.

A Consumer Watchdog study, however, proved that Valero was only interested in staving off competition from green energy companies.

The ballot measure, Proposition 23, was soundly defeated Nov. 2. You’d think, if what the Prop 23 proponents said was true, chief proposition funder Valero would take a crippling slap from the stock market. Nope, just the opposite. Its stock hit a 52-week high on Friday, and its third-quarter profit was $292 million, up nearly a billion dollars from a $691 million loss a year ago, near the bottom of the recession.

It’s true that people who work for Valero are losing jobs–the company boasts of “reducing costs” by $185 million this year, and another $100 million next year. But that’s about increasing profit, not because of climate regulation.

It’s also true that motorists, particularly in California, are paying absurdly high fuel prices. But that’s partly because of speculation-driven oil prices and partly because refiners are deliberately suppressing the amount of fuel that they refine: Profits per barrel of refined fuel are up at Valero more than 50% from last year, with similar numbers for other refiners–while the amount of capacity they are using remains far down from 2006.

The bottom line is that Valero didn’t give a darn about the effect of climate regulation on California jobs or California’s economy. The company is cutting jobs and raising profit margins because it can. And cutting out green competition would simply have made it easier.

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