City of Berkeley Considers Public Health, CO2 Warning on Gas Pumps

Various countries around the world have passed legislation to warn consumers of the dangers of smoking, drinking or overeating through mandated warnings printed on packaging and in shops, bars and fast food outlets.

In general, we call such labels ‘public health warnings,’ but now the City of Berkeley, nestled by the east side of San Francisco Bay, is poised to become the first U.S. city to require public health warnings to be placed on every gas pump — a total of twenty filling stations at the time of writing — to warn consumers of the detrimental effect of excess CO2 in our atmosphere.

Warning stickers could go on every gas pump in the city of Berkeley if legislation is passed. Image: Beyond the Pump (350BayArea.org)

Warning stickers could go on every gas pump in the city of Berkeley if legislation is passed. Image: Beyond the Pump (350BayArea.org)

As The LA Times reports, a citizens’ panel called the Community Environmental Advisory Commission has approved the concept of putting public health warning stickers on gas pumps across the city. Their goal, to warn about the dangers of driving gasoline-fuelled vehicles.

The idea — which comes from a grassroots movement in the San Francisco Bay area known as 350 Bay Area — is to try and remind consumers each and every time they fill up that the fuel they’re pumping has an adverse affect on the environment, on a local, national, and global scale.

The proposed labels would include text saying that the State of California “has determined that global warming caused by CO2 emissions poses a serious threat to the economic well-bing, public health, natural resources and the environment of California.”

It would also include a web address for customers to visit to find out more about the campaign and project, as well, we presume, as places to find a greener transportation solution.

“Chances are a consumer dismissive of climate change won’t notice the label,” said Jamie Brooks, manager of 350 Bay Area’s Beyond the Pump campaign. “The person concerned about climate change will read the label…. It acts as a reinforcement. I need to change my behaviors. I am part of a large emissions problem now. The label identifies you as part of the problem.”

While the legislation hasn’t made it into city ordinance yet, a vote by the city’s Citizen Energy Commission on the matter is due in July, after which it will move to the City Council for discussion in September.

“It’s a perfect opportunity to remind people that there are greenhouse gas impacts and there are alternatives,” said Councilman Kriss Worthington, who sponsored the initial measure. “It’d be happy for every other city to do it first and we could be 101st but so far it looks like we’re on track to be the first.”

The proposals, despite not yet being voted on, have raised some hackles within the petroleum industry.

These alerts are designed to get drivers to think twice about their gasoline consumption Image: Beyond the Pump (350BayArea.org)

These alerts are designed to get drivers to think twice about their gasoline consumption Image: Beyond the Pump (350BayArea.org)

Calling the proposals a “violation of the first Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” and calling the measures “onerous restrictions on businesses,” President Catherine H. Reheis-Boyd of the Western States Petroleum Association is unimpressed.

“To call such messages ‘warnings’ is to imply that such opinions should be accorded the status of fact,” she wrote in an objection to the Berkeley Planning & Development Department last week. “But the messages are not ‘purely factual and uncontroversial information’ – they touch on issues that represent some of the most contentious issues in existence today.”

Like opposition from powerful tobacco lobbyists to smoking health warning stickers, expect this battle to go on for some time, with the city of Berkeley and the state of California in for some tough legal wrangling in order to pass the gasoline warning stickers into law.

With the state of California keen to do everything it can to promote greener transportation solutions and reduce dependence on oil however, we think this particular fight won’t be quite as bloody as it could be elsewhere in the U.S.

“What we’ve heard so far is that what we’re proposing appears to be legal, that there is not a federal preemption on city authority, and that it’s narrowly crafted language,” said Worthington. “The language has been adopted by the California state Legislature. It’s not just some environmental group saying this. It’s the official policy of the state of California.”

Will Berkeley Succeed? Will other cities or states follow? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

[Hat-Tip: George Betak]

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  • I first heard this idea raised at a meeting of the Toronto Hybrid and Electric Car Club (TheCC ~ http://www.TorontoHybrid.ca) last year. The presenter was from Our Horizon. You can find more about them here: http://ourhorizon.org/overview/ Perhaps more than one organization has come up with the same idea or perhaps they could be working with 350BayArea?

  • vdiv

    The State of California has determined that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas?! All those scientists in John Oliver’s show have nothing to do with it?nhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjuGCJJUGsgnnThe message may be more “effective” if it says that Bill O’Reilly, or Jesus, or God Himself has deemed it so. It’s in Electricians 4:11 😉

  • Surya

    I like the idea but I don’t think it will have much impact

  • D. Harrower

    I’m surprised they mention global warming.nnHalf the United States still thinks it’s a hoax.nnLike tobacco, this will be a long, dirty fight. And, like tobacco, the petroleum industry will lose.nnNothing on the label is slanderous or incorrect. The only way to argue it is that global warming is “controversial” and “unproven”. A position no company with any sense would take in 2014.

  • CDspeed

    Put them on, why not, it is true.