Big Oil’s ‘Latino Voice’ Campaign is a Veiled Attempt to Silence True Advocates for Clean Air

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Written by MaCarmen Gonzalez, People’s Collective for Environmental Justice

The oil industry says it will see to it that Latino voices are heard in the debate over the future of energy in California. They’re wrong. We don’t need Big Oil to voice our desire to live in communities with clean air and free from pollution and lung diseases.

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) says it needs to help state legislators understand — what they call — a new point of view from Latinos who are supposedly being ignored in the energy debate. They call this campaign “Levanta Tu Voz” (Raise Your Voice).

But their campaign is a big lie.

In Sacramento, Latino voices are already heard through state legislators and air regulators defending their communities’ interests with clear legislation and targeted regulations to reduce emissions in freight communities where our children learn, play and breathe. This is the type of change Latinos and communities of color need. 

We know too well how corporations like Amazon, Walmart, UPS, and others impact our lives. They’ve helped bring over 1 billion square feet of warehousing to the Inland Empire. Along with freeways and railyards, these massive structures attract thousands of diesel trucks daily, contributing to the worst ozone and particulate pollution in the entire country.

We know that the goods movement shifting away from diesel will stop diesel death and significantly improve our quality of living. 

Of course, the oil industry does not share this view. The problem for them isn’t the absence of a valid Latino point of view but instead finding someone who thinks like them: that profits have more value than health.

They want to distract us with superficial arguments so that we forget the devastating impact of pollution from oil production and vehicle emissions on the health of minority communities. And for that, they are willing to do just about anything.

For example, they promote voices that suggest that there’s a class war between those whom they refer to as the rich with their fancy electric cars and the poor, who rely on public transportation and bicycles. They want to convince Latinos that the poor will pay more for expensive clean energy than the rich and that it would be better to leave things as they are and make no changes.

They are wrong. We do not share the duplicitous approach that the health of our communities should be sacrificed for the economy. But they want to convince us that it has to be all or nothing; for them, it’s nothing.

Fossil fuel companies want to pretend now to have a social conscience and care about people experiencing poverty, when they never were concerned in the past, to squeeze consumers so they could make record profits. In fact, we know they are willing to spend millions to deceive us and stop any progress to address climate change. 

As a Latina living near a diesel death zone, I will not allow the fossil fuel industry to narrow down our concerns to a public relations campaign. Here the choice is crystal clear: we must decide between protecting our health or tolerating asthma and cancer-causing pollution.

As people are directly impacted by diesel emissions and the operations used by fossil fuel companies, we will not allow wealthy corporations to misinform the community. As people living in environmental justice communities, we are the experts due to our lived experience. Fossil fuel corporations are rooted in greed and corruption. 

The industry’s campaign aims to confuse and divide us by promoting baseless arguments. Don’t be fooled. In the Inland Empire, rest assured, we don’t need the fossil fuel companies to tell us what is best for Latinos or to make us heard. This is my voice!

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