SAUSALITO - Gov. Jerry Brown, whose permissiveness of hydraulic fracturing has alienated many environmentalists, said Monday he is a "missionary" to oil executives in the fight against climate change.
The Democratic governor, who has made climate change a focus of his administration, told a meeting of The Environmental Council of the States, an association of state agency leaders, that reducing the use of fossil fuels requires broad support, including from within the oil industry.
"I'm kind of a missionary here," Brown said.
Brown, who has taken contributions from oil companies for his re-election campaign and other political causes, said he has spent hours meeting with oil executives he did not identify, adding that he keeps "going back." He reiterated dire warnings he has made for years about the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the environment.
"We're setting in motion the presence of greenhouse gases that will be around for hundreds of years," he said. "And worse than that, it's not a slow walk to destruction."
Brown has come under criticism from environmentalists opposed to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, including a vocal demonstration during his speech to the California Democratic Party's annual convention this month.
Brown signed legislation last year establishing a permitting system for fracking and requiring an environmental review of the practice in which water and chemicals are injected underground to break up rock formations.
Brown told reporters Monday that the environmental impacts "are being very carefully examined."
Brown championed environmental causes when he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983, and he has set California out as a leader on climate change in his third term.
"We've got to reduce, systematically, increasingly, the use of fossil fuel," Brown said Monday. "That's oil, that's coal and, ultimately, that's natural gas."
Brown appeared resistant to a gas tax proposed last month by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, in what Steinberg called a more stable alternative to gas price increases likely to result from a requirement that oil companies buy carbon credits for fuel they sell starting next year.
Brown told reporters he has not seen the proposal, which many environmentalists oppose. However, Brown said, "I don't think there are going to be any new taxes this year."
PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown looks at protesters opposing fracking after his speech at the California Democratic Party's convention on March 8, 2014, in Los Angeles. Associated Press/ Jae C. Hong