California Stays the Course on Green Energy

By David L. Brown

Another example of the way in which energy moguls work to block development of sustainable, clean energy was the recent introduction of Prop. 23 in California. This proposition, which came to a vote on November 2, quite simply was aimed at dismantling the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act, passed in 2006. Also known as AB 32,  the GWSA calls for the state’s producers of greenhouse gas to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Many initiatives are well under way to replace fossil fuels, create greater efficiency in existing technologies, and move the state toward a cleaner “green” future. Beginning to take effect in 2012, the act will require about a 15 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from present levels by the target date ten years from now.

This seems a moderate goal, perhaps even less than might be hoped. But nonetheless, it had drawn fire from the usual suspects, who organized Prop. 23 to demand that AB32 be suspended until the state’s employment rate dropped below 5.5 percent for a full 12 months. Because this is an unlikely event (that level has been reached only three times in the past 40 years), the proposition in reality was a move to permanently gut the GWSA.

And who was behind this end run to set California up to continue down the dead end path toward oblivion as resource depletion continues to undermine the old economic infrastructure while forward-looking nations such as China and Germany stake their futures on rapid development of alternative energy? Why, the usual suspects, of course. Although the California Republican and Libertarian Parties signed on to support the proposition, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwartzenegger strongly opposed the proposition and was joined by GOP candidates Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman among others, proving that the party structure is increasingly at odds with its own candidates.

But politicians weren’s the real conspirators behind the proposition. The individuals and corporate entities that acted in support of the proposition wrapped themselves in a cloak of deception, claiming to be concerned with jobs. In fact, they called their effort the California Jobs Initiative. And yet, a look at the list of major donors to the movement tells a different story. Top contributor was a company called Valero Energy ($4.05 million), followed by (among others) Tesoro ($1.525 million), Flint Hills Resources, LP ($1 million; this is a subsidiary of Koch Industries, a major supporter of anti-global warming initiatives); Occidental Petroleum ($300K), National Petrochemical and Refiners Assn. ($100K), Tower Energy Group ($200K); World Oil Corp. ($100K); Southern Counties Oil ($50K); Frontier Oil ($50K);  Murray Energy ($30K); and Berry Petrochemical ($30K).

Hmm, do we see a pattern here? Are these leading supporters of a move to block California from improving its greenhouse gas footprint acting out of concern for the jobs of Californians—or from their own self-interested desire to continue to profit from fossil fuels and the destruction of the environment? It’s rather clear that the answer is the latter, the profit one, the evil one, rather than the charitable desire to protect jobs. for ordinary Californians. In fact, suspending the act would have put paid to at least 50,000 new jobs relating to clean energy initiatives.

To put this in further perspective, let’s take a closer look at some of those supporters of the proposal to block the green act. No. 1 contributor Valero operates two oil refineries in California. No. 2 donor Tesoro is the 24th largest producer of air pollution in the United States. And Koch Industries, the third largest contributor, is one of the top 10 corporate polluters in the nation.

What more can we say, except to applaud the wisdom of California voters who soundly defeated Prop. 23 by a 22 percent margin, approximately 61 percent to 39 percent. The Golden State may face deep and serious problems but at least its people have the courage to stand up against polluters and those that Ayn Rand called “looters,” the corporate highway robbers who want to continue their nasty ways at all costs.

California, and the world at large, needs to vastly expand support of alternative energy programs. It’s not the time to listen to those who advise us to inserting our heads into the sand in ostrich-like denial.

In an editorial written prior to the election, Science magazine editor Bruce Alberts had this to say:

The public and private investment in energy innovation now totals only about 0.3% of U.S. energy expenditures. California’s Proposition 23 needs to be soundly defeated, sending a clear signal to Washington that the people of the United States are ready and willing to mobilize its considerable resources in the vital drive to a sustainable energy future.

To which I add, bravo! And thanks to California voters the message has been sent.

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