Key votes in California this November
I’m in San Francisco for the Environmental Entrepreneurs 10th anniversary summit. (Er, go Giants!) Yesterday, I chatted around with some California climate hawks and, as you’d expect, Proposition 23 came up quite often. (Prop 23 would effectively overturn the state’s ambitious climate program, AB 32.) A few folks asked why I haven’t written about it more, given its importance this election season.
I have no good answer, I’m afraid, other than bloggers love to say clever things and there’s not much clever to say about Prop 23. All I can do is state the obvious: Given the perilous condition of climate politics at the national level, preserving AB 32, both as a proving ground for clean energy policy and a signal to the world about American leadership, is incredibly, incredibly important.
A few more obvious things: Giant out-of-state oil companies like Tesoro and Valero are dumping millions of dollars into the state, exploiting the recession to frighten and lie to Californians, attempting by sheer force of lobbying to turn them against a law two-thirds of them support. That’s kinda scummy. Rich Texas oil barons shouldn’t be able to purchase veto power over California’s quest for a clean energy economy. The state shouldn’t shoot itself in the foot by short-circuiting clean energy industries that are already driving innovation and job growth. Also, I don’t care what anyone says, kicking puppies is wrong, children are our future, and chocolate chip cookies taste good.
• Build 12,000 megawatts of localized electricity generation
• Build 8,000 megawatts of large scale renewables and necessary transmission lines
• Deal with peak energy needs and develop energy storage
• A timeline to make new homes and commercial buildings zero net energy
• Make existing buildings more efficient
• Adopt stronger appliance efficiency standards
• Develop more cogeneration projects to increase combined heat and power production by 6,500 megawatts
• Appoint a renewable energy jobs czar
Twenty thousand megawatts of new renewable energy in four years! Brown has also supported full implementation of AB 32, a 33 percent renewable electricity standard, PACE loans, and other forms of financing for clean energy, infill development, high-speed rail, tax incentives to encourage cleantech industries, expanded electric car infrastructure, and pretty much every other policy climate hawks hold dear.
Meanwhile, his opponent Meg Whitman says she’ll suspend AB 32 the day she takes office. So there’s that.
An even lesser-known fact: Prop 23’s somewhat obscure cousin Prop 26 would also do serious damage to California’s clean energy efforts. As you may know, raising any tax in California requires a two-thirds vote in the legislature. That’s part of why the state’s budgetary situation is such an unholy mess — the hard-core Republican minority can sabotage any effort to govern responsibly. Prop 26 would impose the same two-thirds requirement on state and local fees (which are different than taxes), including fees on pollution. According to a new analysis by the UCLA School of Law, Prop 26 would “erect significant barriers” to funding and thus “could have substantial and wide-ranging impacts on implementation of the state’s health, safety and environmental laws.” The measure’s backers claim it won’t affect AB 32, but that’s almost certainly false.
And finally the least well-known fact of all: There’s another proposition relevant to California’s clean energy economy. Prop 25 would allow the state budget to be passed by a majority vote in the legislature rather than the aforementioned two-thirds. It would restore some measure of responsible budgeting, put the state on firmer fiscal ground, and give clean energy industries, which need the incentives in the budget, more confidence in their predictability.
If, through votes on these key contests, Californians reiterate and renew their commitment to a clean energy future, it will provide climate hawks some measure of counter-narrative in November, when everyone’s talking about the flat-earth right’s domination. If there are few climate leaders in the nation’s capital, it would at least be nice to point a few on its left coast.
Anyway, that’s about what I’ve got to say on California in the midterms. Clean energy: good. Big fossil fuel money and daffy right-wing ideology crushing clean energy: bad. It’s counter-counter-intuitive!