Fact check: Ad misleads on gas reduction law

Sacramento Bee, August 22, 2015 →

The California Drivers Alliance, a group funded by the Western States Petroleum Association, is running a radio ad opposing Senate Bill 350, which would require the state to reduce petroleum use in motor vehicles by 50 percent by 2030, among other measures.

The sweeping proposal was advanced by legislative Democrats in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. After the Senate passed the measure, oil companies released a barrage of advertising targeting moderate Democrats in the Assembly, which has yet to vote on the bill.

Text: “This is an official notification about the California Gas Restriction Act of 2015. If enacted, Californians will face a mandatory 50 percent restriction in their use of gasoline and diesel fuel.

“This will be a state-mandated restriction. The agency administering the restrictions will be granted authority not limited to:

“Sharply increasing fees at the pump so fewer people will purchase gasoline;

“Gas rationing to control individual purchases of gasoline;

“Increasing surcharges on cars, trucks and minivans purchased prior to 2007;

“Mobility monitoring to digitally track and record your driving habits so citations and penalties can be issued.

“To stop the gas restriction act of 2015, also called Senate Bill 350, go to www.donttakemygas.org. Register your opposition to California’s gas restrictions. Go to www.donttakemygas.org. This has been an official notification by the California Drivers Alliance, paid for by the Western States Petroleum Association.”

Analysis: The ad exploits a lack of specificity in Senate Bill 350 about what measures the California Air Resources Board could take to reduce petroleum use. But it misleads by suggesting gas rationing, surcharges and citations based on driving habits are in store.

First, the legislation is not called the California Gas Restriction Act of 2015. And while there is no law prohibiting the Air Resources Board from rationing fuel, Senate Bill 350 says nothing about the issue. The bill does not include new authority for the ARB to ration gas or to impose surcharges on older vehicles.

Rather, the ARB would maintain its existing, broad authority over vehicle emissions and fuel standards.

The ad’s claim about tracking and recording motorists’ driving habits is overblown. The ARB has long required onboard diagnostic equipment to monitor emission control components on cars and trucks, and it is now considering expanding the kind of data collected to measure fuel consumption.

But it would be voluntary for drivers to participate, according to the ARB, and data could be stored without identifying individual vehicles or owners. The proposal does not mention citations or penalties such as the ad claims could be imposed.

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

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