College student with Sonoma County ties leads effort for oil extraction tax

  • Jack Tibbetts, a student at U.C. Berkeley, wrote an initiative called The California Modernization and Economic Development Act, which he hopes will qualify for the November 2014 election. If passed, the act would levy an extraction tax on oil and natural gas in California, which would be used to reduce unemployment by investing in education, green energy, cities and parks. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

Exposed early to the ways and means of politics as the son of a local Democratic Party power broker, Harrison "Jack" Tibbetts, 23, is waging a statewide political battle against a formidable foe: Big Oil.

A junior at UC Berkeley, Tibbetts has beaten a path to Sacramento in recent weeks to drum up support for a ballot measure he drafted that would place a new state severance tax on oil companies and potentially raise billions, mainly for California's education system.

"The focus has always been on creating opportunity," Tibbetts said. "We have this horrible funding problem for higher education. All these people are dropping out left and right."

He also testified in support of Senate Bill 241, which was authored by Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, and also seeks taxes on the harvesting of oil and gas.

Evans, who called Tibbetts "very poised, very knowledgeable and very passionate" in an interview last week, went so far as to announce that she has partnered with the political science major on their mutual endeavors.

It's a big stage for a young man who until a few years ago was still in search of a direction. Tibbetts attended Montgomery High School for two years before he transferred to the Winter Sports School in Park City, Utah, where he competed on the school's ski team and earned his diploma.

Tibbetts said he worked as a shop technician for a year after high school before he decided to enroll at Santa Barbara City College. After two years there he transferred to Cal.

Recent photos posted to Facebook portray the 23-year-old Tibbetts sailing and in a thoughtful pose at a political rally on the steps of his university's Sproul Hall.

"The political portraits have begun," a friend commented on the Sproul Hall photo.

Nick Tibbetts, a local Democratic Party strategist, said his son has always been interested in helping people who are not in the best of circumstances.

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