Prop 23: The Whole World Watches as Narrow Interests and the Planet Collide in California

With the election of 2010 imminent, all eyes that are looking hopefully in the direction of a sustainable future are turned towards California, where two key propositions are providing the opportunity for Golden State voters to show, once again that when it comes to protecting the environment, California is the conscience of the country, if not the world.

Most visible has been Proposition 23, which seeks to suspend the provisions of State Law AB32, the Global Warming Act of 2006, until the state unemployment rate reaches 5.5% for four consecutive quarters, a level that has only occurred for three years since 1980.
Response to the bill has been heated on both sides. Financial support, primarily from oil companies has exceeded $8 million, but this was topped by those opposed, primarily environmental groups, who raised over $11 million from thousands of contributors.

The battle has been called the “bellwether for national climate change initiatives,” and a model for federal cap and trade legislation. Recent polling suggests that the measure is not expected to pass, but the vote could be close.

California has long been an environmental policy leader, both nationally and around the world. Most recently, the tailpipe emission law, passed in 2002 was adapted as the national EPA standard. This new standard is expected to directly save Americans some $32 billion in fuel, not to mention the indirect costs of keeping the oil supply flowing.

Eileen Clausen of the Pew Center for Climate Change says that, “by creating a policy environment of extreme uncertainty, Prop 23 threatens to freeze the currently expanding investment in clean technology in the state. It is also arguably the new ‘battleground’ on comprehensive climate legislation in the U.S., given the current state of affairs in the U.S. Congress.”

On the other hand, David Kreutzer of the Heritage Foundation says, “Current law will force consumers to switch to energy sources that can be four or more times as expensive as conventional energy, driving energy prices up, employers out, and consumers crazy. The current rules make especially little sense in the current economic environment.” He then goes on to describe a GE incandescent light bulb factory in Virginia that is being shut down as the result of the move towards more efficient products. I believe the same thing happened with buggy whips. He bemoans the fact that the replacements will come from China. But that has nothing to do with AB 32. That is the result of GE choosing to ignore the people portion of the triple bottom line.

Rodger Schlickeisen, of Defenders of Wildlife, says that, “the battle that is being played out in the Golden State reflects the gridlock paralyzing the whole country. The passage of Prop. 23 would fuel the resistance of big corporate polluters across the country to take responsibility for cleaning up their dirty operations.”

This is also true for Proposition 26. Although disguised as a measure to limit the legislature’s ability to raise taxes, buried in the language of the law along with taxes are mitigation fees that penalize businesses for causing harm to the environment or to public safety. As a result, the new law, which seeks to amend the state constitution, would make it more difficult for lawmakers to assess these types of fees, thereby letting polluters off the hook. With a two-thirds majority required, that means fewer lawmakers to be bought off. The savings could be considerable. That’s why it should be no surprise that the biggest supporters of Prop 26, like Prop 23, are oil and cigarette companies. Supporters of the bill have raised at least $15 million compared with the roughly $300k that has been raised by the opposition that has been focusing its efforts on Proposition 23.

According to Pew’s Eileen Clausen, “It’s ironic that Prop 23 could be defeated, while Prop 26, backed with multimillion-dollar contributions from the California Chamber of Commerce, Chevron Corporation, and Philip Morris USA Inc., might slide through and have the same effect on AB32, albeit via different means. Passage of either proposition would be a setback to California’s ability to move forward on climate.”

RP Siegel is co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails.

Like airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though can we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.

Follow RP Siegel an Twitter.

RP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering, and among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 52 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP recently returned from Abu Dhabi where he traveled as the winner of the 2015 Sustainability Week blogging competition.Contact:

5 responses

  1. PROP 26 is just as destructive as PROP 23. Prop 26 is a treacherous, Big Oil rip-off, which “passes the buck” from oil corporation, clean-up fees to the taxpayer, who will pay the oil recycling fees,the materials hazards fees and other fees. If you do not understand the ambiguities and the intrigues behind Prop 26, then, vote no. Shell, BP and Exxon Mobil are silent partners behind Prop 26. Power to the people.

  2. History will say:
    “Meanwhile, the UN had allowed carbon trading to trump 3rd world fresh water relief, starvation rescue and 3rd world education for just over 24 years of climate control instead of population control.”

    Climate Change has done to science, scientists, The United Nations and lazy copy and paste journalists and piggybacking political ideologues, what Bush and his WMD lies did to the reputation of the neocons.
    This is the Iraq War of fear and lying to all those in media and anybody associated with “science”. History will see this era of CO2 environMENTALism as the modern day witch burning and Omen worship.
    Ice Melt.
    Cave man put out fire to please sky Gods.

    Climate scientists in particular are now thanks to their greed, to science, what abusive priests are to religion.
    If you still think voters will approve this insanity, YOU are the new denier. A wave of denier rage has arrived.

  3. AB32 is Not a pollution control Act, its a flawed Global Warming Act.

    AB32 needs to eliminate the Cap and Trade provisions that promote pollution, eliminate the unnecessary oversight Fees, eliminate the reliance on flawed Green House Gas assumptions, correct the vague language that will introduce Environmental Red Tape that will do more damage than good, ensure AB32 doesn’t undermine The Rule of Law, and make non-governmental agencies like CARB accountable to the taxpayer for their mistakes.

    Vote YES on Prop 23, it makes the most sense until AB32 is fixed and we can afford it.

  4. The key thing to keep in mind is that, according to CARB, AB 32 will do NOTHING to help global warming, will cost jobs and have a negative effect on the economy. This comes from the very people who drew it up!

    AB 32 does nothing for local pollution.

    Prop 23 leaves us with the toughest pollution laws in the country, among the toughest in the world. It will NOT increase local pollution

    If Proposition 23 is rejected, here is what will happen according to expert sources:

    •A 60 percent increase in your electricity bill according to the Southern California Public Power Authority.

    •An 8 percent increase in your natural gas bill according to CARB’s economic analysis.

    •$50,000 more for the price of a new home according to an analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

    •$3.7 billion a year more for gasoline and diesel according to Sierra Research.

    •A $1,000-$3,000 additional cost for a new car according to CARB and automaker studies.

    On top of all that, a study conducted for the California Small Business Roundtable found that AB 32 regulations would cost small business alone nearly $200 billion, and would result in more than 1 million lost jobs.

    The more I learn about AB 32, the more I fear it. It just gets worse. Please vote yes on Prop23.

    For months, John and Ken have made Prop 23 their top priority, calling it a necessary step to stop a law they say will kill jobs and cost Californians a fortune in higher gas and energy prices. With an estimated one million listeners per week, these two guys usually manage to rally enough votes to get their way.

    “”2 Guys on the Bay Area Transportation Board told the CARB people, “If you try to do what you are going to do(AB 32) we’ll have gas at $9.07 a gallon and we have freeway tolls at up to $4,500 a year to drive during rush hour.”

    “Part of the plan is to stop suburban development, get people to stop driving, make driving too expensive for people to live out there, force them to live in high-rises, condos, in the city.”

    The video has John and Ken explaining why they think this bill is the most important measure on the ballot.

    Points to ponder on AB 32:

    ° AB 32 is not a pollution law, it is a global warming law, but it won’t have any effect on global warming.

    ° CARB over-estimated diesel emmisions by 340%. What else have they over-estimated?

    ° Key CARB personnel caught lying about credentials and then failing to reveal this after it is discovered internally before AB 32 passed, until after AB 32 passed. What else are they lying about and with-holding?

    ° CARB has admitted that California alone cannot have an impact on reducing global warming and CO2 emissions.

    ° US EPA acknowledges that US action alone will not impact the world CO2 levels;

    ° US EPA (11 July 2010) said that bills in Congress will not reduce the total use of gas and oil of 20 million gallons per day for decades.

    ° LAO (CA Legislative Analyst Office) stated: CA economy at large will be adversely affected by implementation of climate-related policies that are not in place elsewhere. (Letter to Dan Logue, 13 May 2010)

    ° Even CARB’s own economic experts have recognized the fact that jobs will be lost because of AB 32. In fact, they recommend establishing a “Worker Transition Program” to provide assistance to people who lose their jobs because of AB 32 regulations.

    ° AB 32 does nothing for local pollution, nor does Proposition 23 do anything to increase local pollution.

    ° 5.5% unemployment for 4 consecutive quarters has occurred 7 times since 2005, 14 times since 1999, and 22 times since 1987. See for yourself, the data is right here;

    When the loudest objections to any candidacy or initiative are focused on vilifying its financial backers, this often indicates that its opponents’ arguments on its merits are weak.

    Vote yes on Prop 23 and suspend AB32.

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