The oil and gas interests that are behind Proposition 23 on this fall's ballot in California would like you to believe that clean air and protecting the climate are simply unaffordable frills in today's depressed economic times. Not only do they have their priorities scrambled, the facts are not on their side.
The object of wrath of some Republicans and small-minded corporations is AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. Even large energy companies such as Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) supported the law, as it was seen as a way to bring California back into the forefront of developing the carbon-free electricity sources that most experts predict will come to dominate our power supplies in the coming decades. Recent polls show that 7 out of 10 independent voters oppose Prop. 23; a majority of all voters also still voice support for AB 32, despite the economic doldrums facing the nation and state.
Just as special interests thwarted efforts to pass any meaningful regulations on carbon and/or to promote renewable energy at the federal level, the Tea Party activists -- working with sympathetic apologists for the fossil fuel industry -- are trying to roll back California's progressive leadership on energy through the much maligned ballot initiative process.
The good news is that supporting this effort to undo climate legislation is bad politics, according to the Los Angeles Times. While gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has tried to have to both ways, saying at one point she supported (but now opposes) Prop. 23, highlights the waffling going on at the GOP -- at least in California. Leading Republican candidates -- such as former HP CEO Carly Fiorina running against Democrat Barbara Boxer for a Senate seat -- have come out for Prop. 23. The hesitancy on both Whitman and Fiorina's part is is a reflection of the fact that Silicon Valley sees Ab 32 as a market maker -- not a drag on the current economy.
Perhaps the most disturbing news on the Prop. 23 front comes from other states, namely Alabama, Nebraska, North Dakota and Texas. Attorney Generals from these four states claim they will go to the court if voters don't see it their way and fight off this challenge to a law that has guided state energy policy for the last four years and which still enjoys wide support among environmentalists and businesses interests alike. In lawsuits where states are the opposing litigants, the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction. Which means a trial would take place at the Supreme Court, which would be a riveting spectacle. Precedent would be on the side of California in setting the rules for the health and safety of its residents.
Among the more ridiculous campaign tactics launched by the backers of Prop. 23 is to make the dubious claim that greenhouse gas emissions are not pollution, a position that some equate to tobacco companies saying that smoking is not bad for your health. However, since the federal EPA has ruled that carbon dioxide is a harmful pollutant the wind has been taken from the sails of that claim by backers of Prop 23.
One bright spot in this debate is that like PG&E's ballot measure -- Prop. 16 -- which was rejected by voters despite a massive propaganda campaign this past spring, most newspapers, including the Oakland Tribune, are opposing Proposition 23. Another of California's publicly owned utilities, Sempra Corporation (parent of San Diego Gas and Electric), has joined PG&E in coming out in opposition.