Obscuring Truth About Prop. 23's Backers

NOV. 18, 2010

In the Sacramento Bee Sunday Nov. 14, there were five different stories about climate change, including stories about the recently defeated Proposition 23, California’s global warming law (AB32), which Prop. 23 sought to suspend until the state’s economy improved, as well as stories warning of giant sheets of ice and looming catastrophe’s along coasts, all told of human-induced global warming and the need to enact more governmental solutions and policies.

Only buried deep in one story however, was the disclosure that “scientists’ estimates of the potential of coastal flooding due to warming could be wrong.”

One column by Ann Notthoff, California advocacy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, celebrated the defeat of Proposition 23, said that it meant that people who voted to defeat the initiative that would have only suspended California’s global warming law, “transcended politics as usual,” because it “wasn’t about championing liberal or conservative values.” Notthoff wrote that the defeat of Prop. 23 “was about hope and determination against fear and retreat.”

Apparently those of us who wish to see California’s economy improve before the state goes completely insolvent championing green businesses, instill “fear and retreat.”

The NRDC’s mission is “to safeguard the Earth: its people, its plants and animals and the natural systems on which all life depends.” The group claims, “We seek to break down the pattern of disproportionate environmental burdens borne by people of color and others who face social or economic inequities.”

Information about the National Resources Defense Council and its funding, revealed (courtesy of Guidestar) that the Tides Foundation kept popping up, along with all of the usual environmental players: Greenpeace, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Environmental Working Group and the Ruckus Society, several of which gave large sums of money to defeat Prop. 23. The Heinz Endowment and the Tides Foundation continue to fund many of these aggressive environmental groups, which are often in the forefront of left-wing political issues.

Missing from nearly every story or opinion piece, was the economic information about the substantial subsidies that are supporting green technology and green companies. “Jobs in this sector are growing at 10 times the rate of any other industry. Companies are moving to California to participate in this bonanza,” Notthoff wrote.

The “bonanza” Notthoff is referring to would be the government subsidy bonanza. A Google search of “green tech subsidies in California” brings up many Web sites hawking how to start a green business, and where to get green tech grants.

However, Notthoff’s claim of a business bonanza is completely refuted by Wall Street Journal contributor George Gilder. “In a parody of supply-side economics, advocates of AB32 envisage the substitution of alternative energy sources that create new revenue sources, new jobs and industries. Their economic model sees new wealth emerge from jobs dismantling the existing energy economy and replacing it with a Medieval system of windmills and solar collectors. By this logic we could all get rich by razing the existing housing plant and replacing it with new-fangled tents,” wrote Gilder.

A column by Bee Senior Editor Dan Morain, ostensibly about governor-elect Jerry Brown, prominently featured hedge fund manager and billionaire Thomas Steyer, a major donor to the “No on Prop. 23” campaign which used “big oil” as the evil justification for defeat of Prop. 23. But nowhere in Morain’s opinion piece does he mention the personal fortune Steyer made in big oil. Morain even stated, “Steyer, who has no financial stake in the future of AB 32…”

In a CalWatchdog story, Wayne Lusvardi recently wrote, “Steyer runs an investment firm that holds stock in ‘dirty coal’ and nuclear plants, oil and gas companies in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.  Additionally, Steyer’s investment firm holds stock in the leading photovoltaic solar panel supplier in California, Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. of China. Steyer’s firm, Farallon Capital Management Co., also is an external fund manager for CalPERS.”

A pre-election debate over Prop. 23 between Republican Assemblyman Dan Logue (author of Prop. 23) and Steyer shed light into Steyer’s holdings, as well as the source of his wealth. I attended the debate and wrote afterward, “A representative from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer’s Association asked Steyer, ‘Who truly profits with AB32’s implementation?’ She also asked him about his ‘$100 million of gas and oil holdings,’ and if profiting off of AB32 was a conflict of interest.”

Unwilling to address the source of his wealth, and clearly ducking the question, Steyer only answered, “We make investments through a number of private industries, but I do believe that Proposition 23 is a disaster for the state.” He offered no other comment and instead, changed the subject.

Only at the end of the Bee story about the dangers of melting ice was the statement,  “Strictly speaking, scientists have not proved that human-induced global warming is the cause of the changes.” The story titled, “Scientists find troubling new data on ice,” explained, “The strongest reason to think that the level of the sea could undergo big changes is that it has done so in the past. With the waxing and waning of ice ages, driven by wobbles in Earth’s orbit, sea level has varied by hundreds of feet, with shorelines moving many miles in either direction,” without human involvement.

So while California global warming threats continue to deplete the bank accounts of middle and working-class taxpayers and drive business owners out of the state, wealthy guys like Steyer shill for those looking to claim some of the government subsidy bonanza.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent claim, “The oil companies flexed their muscles trying to overturn our laws but we flexed back,” about the Prop. 23 defeat, is misleading given that it was revealed that the campaign to defeat Prop. 23 and save AB32, spent more than $31 million, while the Prop. 23 campaign received just $10 million from “big oil.” Joining Steyer and his $5 million commitment to defeat Prop. 23, were venture capitalists from Google and Intel. Former chair of The Gap clothing empire, Robert Fisher, contributed $1 million.

Sneaky “environmental” groups and PACs such as a No on Prop. 23 campaign committee, backed by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and founded by Van Jones, reported more than $697,000 in contributions.

Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs received more than $23 million by the end of the campaign.

And the Yes on Prop. 23 campaign hardly reported staggering donations from big oil, according to the Secretary of State.

Climate change is big business in California. It is difficult not to predict that the green industry is headed for collapse, like the banking and housing industries, but only after the state has spent billions to prop it up. Don’t get in the way of the bonanza.

–Katy Grimes

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