California Propositions: Prop 19 Fails to Ignite

Anna Pickrell '14Sports & Activities Editor

This month’s midterm elections saw enough controversial candidates, statements and propositions to make one wonder just where democracy is headed. From Christine O’Donnell’s Constitution confusion to Carl Paladino’s attack on homosexuality and California’s attempt to legalize marijuana, we’ve all had our fair share of political “what’s going on?!” moments, no matter which side of the spectrum we support. Right on par with these extremist examples of what American politics have given us to work with, as anyone who believes in global warming as a realistic threat to our existence will have it, was California’s Proposition 23, which failed with a 61.4 to 38.6% vote.

The intention of Proposition 23 (dubbed “the California Jobs Initiative” by supporters and “the Dirty Energy Proposition” by opponents) was a long-term suspension of California Assembly Bill (AB) 32 (California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) until the state’s unemployment rate saw a drop from 12 percent to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. AB 32 requires the state board to adopt a statewide greenhouse gas emissions limit equivalent to the statewide greenhouse gas emissions levels in 1990 to be achieved by 2020 in the most “technologically feasible and cost-effective” manner. The law defines greenhouse gases as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), and is planned to begin cutting emissions in 2012. This timetable will now continue without interruption from Prop 23.

The state unemployment rate was at a low 4.8 percent when AB 32 was passed in 2006.

Those in favor of Prop 23 argued that our current economic instability cannot afford the jobs slashed by AB 32 and that this proposition was merely a prioritization of the state’s biggest issues.

“Proposition 23 is a common sense approach to protecting jobs, preserving environmental protections and holding the line on costs for California’s struggling families,” says the primary Yes on 23 website, a self-proclaimed coalition of taxpayers, employers, food producers and energy, transportation and forestry companies.

The website maintains that Proposition 23 would have saved over 1.1 million jobs and dodged billions of dollars in high energy costs.

Furthermore, Texas oil tycoons—most notably Tesoro and Valero—were in full support of the proposition, arguing that it would have saved money. These companies allegedly paid off individual economists and research institutes to support the proposition and, prior to elections, revealed the truth behind their seven-digit donations to Proposition 23’s campaign.

Those against the proposition argued back claiming that jobs lost to AB 32 “will be replaced by electric car manufacturers, solar energy firms, waste-to-energy companies and other elements of the growing green-energy sector of the economy,” says Ventura County Star’s Timm Herdt of the views of The Westly Group, a clean-energy focused venture capital firm.

“After the law was passed in 2006, clean energy venture capital investment began pouring into our state at an unprecedented rate. In 2007 nearly $1.8 billion were invested in California clean tech companies - almost a 50 percent increase over the year before. While 2009 was a year of depressed investment - California still led the nation with $2.1 billion in clean tech venture capital investments...To delay or suspend AB 32 will eliminate thousands of jobs in California. Venture capital investment will leave the state and emerging businesses will close their doors,” said Steve Westly, former California State Controller and Managing Partner of The Westly Group, in an op-ed to the Huffington Post.

In the end we can all breathe a big sigh of relief not only because Prop 23 didn’t pass, but also because it didn’t fool us. With an extreme majority of voters proving their ability to see right through the intimidating dominance of Valero and Tesoro and the few loyal followers that they managed to claim, it is now evident where California voters’ priorities reside on the topic of global warming. The only concern left here is that Prop 23 made it this far in the first place, for as we have seen in the past, one failure with voters by no means signifies the death of any piece of radical legislature.