Demystifying the Prop. 23 battle

SEPT. 8, 2010


Californians are faced with unusual issues every election cycle — this November is no different, with challenging “lifestyle” ballot initiatives to sort through. Proposition 23, “the California Jobs Initiative” is probably one of the most challenging, and in part, because of the fight over ballot language. It’s built around the growing green technology industry in California, but not everyone thinks the way California’s state government is going about this environmental, green technology push, is good for the state.

And some think there is a healthy side-order of guilt to go along with the attractive California lifestyle, attracting to many opposing the environmental cause.

Proposition 23 would suspend AB32, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, also known as cap and trade legislation. Cap-and-trade language has become commonly used, but rarely explains that total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are capped, and firms are allowed to trade the limited quantity of emission permits.

AB32’s implementation has already begun, but critics of AB32 say that if California’s adoption of these regulations does not also become the law throughout the nation, the reliance on renewable energy could create price spikes and even brownouts, leading to businesses avoiding California altogether, because of the risk. One Republican Senate report billed AB32 as, “the doctrine that California must single-handedly resolve the cyclical atmospheric warming trend through Herculean regulatory efforts.”

NO on Proposition 23” campaign strategist Steve Maviglio, sees a sunnier outlook and is working toward the failure of the measure. “National business groups see the law as supportive of rapid lean tech growth,” said Maviglio in a CalWatchdog interview. Maviglio said, “The defeat of Proposition 23 would allow the job growth spurred by AB 32, to continue.”

The “NO on Prop 23” Web site (called “Stop the dirty energy proposition”) lists 27 companies that will be hurt if the initiative passes “because clean energy mandates would be suspended,” which companies have been banking on and building toward, according to Maviglio. “California will be the leader in solar energy,” and he acknowledged that “Texas had early wind incentives” through financier, T. Boone Pickens.

Maviglio said that even gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman supports the “No on Prop 23” campaign and AB32, because written into the law is the ability for the governor to suspend it for economic reasons – something Whitman has already said she would do for one year.

Maviglio was critical of the “big oil” support for Prop. 23, and said “the big polluters will be hurt by Prop. 23 losing, because they would rather spend money on campaigns than on cleanup.”

While the businesses listed on the “NO on Proposition 23” Web site are already taking advantage of California green technology, each of the company testimonies on the Web site state that they were paid for by Thomas Steyer, CEO and hedge fund manager for Farallon Capital Management, a $33 billion company. Steyer was a key activist in the campaign against the California Electoral College Reform Initiative in 2008, according to Ballotpedia.

Both sides have big money flowing into the campaigns, as CalWatchdog reported back in June — “Dirty big oil” on the “Yes” side, and fuzzy contributors like “Green Tech” and “The Energy Foundation” on the “NO” campaign.

One of the company testimonies states, “Policies like AB32, which are stimulating “green building” standards and energy efficiency programs, help encourage home owners to do the right thing.” Recurve, a home energy audits and green energy remodeling and construction company in San Francisco, states that in California with so many construction workers are out of work and residential construction rebounding, we need new sectors – such as the home performance retrofitting industry that Recurve pioneered – to prosper in order to put people back to work.”

Another testimony reads, “The Progressive Power Group specializes in the sales, marketing, and installation of solar electric systems for residential and commercial buildings in Southern California.”

“The bottom line,” says Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville, “is that the green industry in California is not market driven. It’s entirely subsidized.”

Logue, the originator of Proposition 23, says that the initiative will suspend “California’s draconian global warming laws,” and save private businesses. “If AB32 is going to create jobs as they say, why do we need a law?” asks Logue. “Green jobs are unsustainable. Just ask Germany, Italy and Spain, which are working to un-do their false green economies.” Logue said that Spain is bankrupt after trying to create its entire economy around and subsidizing green technology.

But it appears that government has a very large stake in AB32 and creating a green industry in California. On a Web site called California Bright Spot, two headlines stood out: “California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Commits $3.1 Billion for Energy Efficiency Programs While Creating up to 18,000 Jobs,” and “California Energy Commission (CEC) Grants $18.8 Million for Program that Creates Jobs in Energy Efficiency Training.”

Asked how the California government can give away this kind of money while suffering under a $20 billion deficit, Logue said, “real innovative green technology projects” were killed by the opposition — $30 billion in jobs were killed over 10 years, and $200 billion worth of jobs, nationwide.

The “NO on Proposition 23” campaign begins most opposition sentences with “Texas oil companies are spending millions on Prop. 23,” but fail to mention the wealthy hedge fund manager support leading up the effort to kill Prop 23, said campaign insiders.

“And the people who oppose Proposition 23 also killed the non-subsidized green jobs in California,” said Logue.

Interestingly, one of the criticisms of cap-and-trade laws from the left is that it would create a gigantic new market in carbon trading that would allow Wall Street players like Goldman Sachs to profit. Proposition 23 campaign insiders said that the commissions on cap and trade will total more than $4 billion each year for Wall Street, signifying just how much is on the line.

Upon closer look on the “bright spot” Web site, and stated in a news release, the $18.8 California Pubic Utility Commission grant listed states that it is federal stimulus money, “funded through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009,” meaning that taxpayers are paying for California to become the green technology leader in the country according to campaign insiders.

The CPUC is funding the green jobs training project, which states it will provide “clean energy work experience to about 200 experienced California contractors and approximately 200 young people who are just ready enter the state’s job market.” Apparently, phase one of the 18-month program will be “specialized training” on the installation technologies designed to improve the energy efficiency of commercial refrigerator cases. Phase two will be “to perform 5,000 green retrofit installations at grocery stores and other state businesses with refrigerated areas.” The state is paying state contractors to learn how to install and retrofit refrigerator cases at state locations.

Ironically, the EnergySmart Job training initiative is led by an Oregon-based company Portland Energy Conservation, Inc.

For proof of his anti-cap-and-trade positions, Logue refers to the 31,000 scientists in the U.S. who signed the petition rejecting “global warming,” and the assumption that it is humans that have damaged the Earth’s climate. The petition also included more than 9,000 Ph.D.s in fields such as atmospheric science, climatology, earth science, and the environment. The bottom line, said Logue, is that 31,000 Scientists say that global warming is not man-made.

“Adding insult to injury” said Logue, “If AB32 is not suspended, the California Air Resources Board claims it does not even know how to implement the law.”

And Logue said California residents will be faced with “paying higher gas prices to ensure you drive less, required to recycle more paper, cans and bottles, carpooling and driving less, as well as contemplating having to drive an expensive hybrid vehicle. Californians will be paying more so that our electric companies can invest in more of their alternative energy businesses.”

At Maviglio’s suggestion, good news could be found on the California Bright Spot Web site. Commercial Solar Design in Santa Rosa touts the benefits of California’s global warming law, and said, “Thanks to policies like AB32, we’ve seen an explosion in the solar farming field in the past couple years. Our company is growing with every contract we sign.”

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