California’s Prop. 87, which would tax oil to fund renewables, spurs big spending

Proposition 87, a California ballot measure that would tax oil production and use the proceeds for research into alternative energy, is spurring some big spending. Oil companies have raised nearly all of the more than $35 million in the “No on 87” piggy bank, with Chevron donating a notable $13.1 million. The pro-87 side has raised $21.8 million, with Hollywood mogul Steve Bing contributing a cool $16.5 million or so. The measure would impose a tax of 1.5 to 6 percent on California oil producers, depending on the current price of a barrel of oil. Prop. 87’s backers hope the tax would raise $4 billion for R&D into alternative fuels and energy, and eventually reduce state petroleum consumption by 25 percent. The hullabaloo is unsurprising, says media-relations consultant Steve Swatt: “When you have a wealthy, deep-pocket special interest that is at risk because of one initiative, they will write checks like there is no tomorrow because so much is at stake.”

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