California Prop 23 Looking Similar to National Energy Policy Fight

Cleantech investors and environmentalists alike can’t help but feel asthough the football has been pulled out from under them, yet again,regarding Congress’ abandonment of the energy bill that was before them, but forgetting about energy and climate policy for a while (as statedin this article) may allow oil companies and other heavy polluters to gain criticalground; critical ground that was gained through the passage ofCalifornia’s 2006 clean energy legislation, AB32, and that may be takenback in November when California voters vote on Proposition 23.

It seems like for at least the past decadeor so, every time the clean energy industry gets a little momentumbehind it, the rug is pulled out from under it.  Republicans andDemocrat lawmakers alike seem to abandon the industry at critical timeswith no sense of the number of jobs lost, the amount of money lost byinvestors, or the developing trend within the larger market communitythat clean energy is not a dependable investment.

Fossil fuel advocates that claim that clean energy is an industry propped upby subsidies neglect the fact  that the only reason oil is a dependableinvestment is because of its long history of subsidies and exemptionsfrom current laws (Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act).  Recent studies done on this fact show that global fossil fuels subsidies in 2008outnumbered clean energy assistance to the tune of $550 billion to $50billion.

In relation to the number of lobbyists in Washington for the oil and gas industry:

With more than 600 registered lobbyists, the industry has among the biggest and most powerful contingents in Washington. Its influence has been on full display in the wake of the BP oil disaster: Proposals to enactnew restrictions or curb oil use have stalled amid concerted Republican opposition and strong objections from Democrats in oil-producingstates.

and… Three out of every fourlobbyists who represent oil and gas companies previously worked in thefederal government, a proportion that far exceeds the usualrevolving-door standards on Capitol Hill. (WaPo)

It’s no wonder clean energy can’t get a fair playing field.  The nature ofclean energy and support from the federal government shows signs thatthe legislative atmpsphere surrounding energy policy is structured in away to inhibit clean energy growth.  By encouraging investors to backclean energy ventures in the short term with promises of policy orfinancing expansions and then pulling away from them, the federalgovernment is implicit in contructing a perfect formula to create a high risk marketplace for investors.  In this case, a high risk atmospheremay be the ultimate objective of fossil fuel advocates in their fightagainst clean energy, and Congress may simply be playing the role of the puppet.

A domestic clean energyeconomy creates jobs, reduces the deficit, and provides us with cleanerwater and air in the future; it is a no brainer in terms of being asolid investment for people wishing to build a retirement fund, nor does it require a lot of thought on a politician’s part to figure out how to vote in order to get reelected.  Thirty, forty years from now, cleanenergy investments made today (if based on merit and quality alone)would be worth 10-20 times their value today; By cleaning up the energyproduction process, a vast majority of voters will benefit and a verysmall number of people will complain; but that very small number ofpeople have a lot of money and can complain very loudly.

Besides simply complaining very loudly, fossil fuel lobbyists work very hardeveryday to create an atmosphere where clean energy uncertaintiesdominate the poitical landscape; this is their driving force becausewithout these seeds of doubt being sown, momentum behind clean energywould snowball.  Their tactics, though, work, and we are seeing theresults in the deadcalm currently developing in clean energy’s sails.

Prop 23 in California is designed to be just that sort of initiative, one that creates uncertainty in clean energy markets. 

The Big-Oil-funded Proposition 23 seeks to repeal California’s GlobalWarming Solutions Act of 2006, a landmark bipartisan achievement that is already creating jobs and reducing pollution in California. Repealwould devastate California’s burgeoning clean tech sector and make itharder to get federal legislation.  (Big Oil Showdown)

In light of Congress on the national level putting clean energylegislation down for a while, Prop 23 has become the the only litmustest in town on the health of the clean energy industry.

Campaigns of doubt are usually based upon misrepresentations, and themisrepresentations being spread by the oil companies that are behindProp 23 mimic those being used on the national level; that is, cleanenergy kills jobs, clean energy contributes to the deficit, clean energy blah, bla-blah bla-blah bla-blah. 

We’ve heard all of thecriticism a thousand times before, but the research on the subject ofclean energy and job creation shows that developing a vibrant cleanenergy industry generates jobs by jumpstarting domestic manufacturing. Clean energy also reduces our dependence on foreign oil and therebyreduces the deficit in the long run.  Clean energy creates a moreprosperous future; that is why the most progressive companies in theworld support legislation that creates a long term mechanism toencourage investment in clean energy technologies, like AB32 does..

As the Senate begins consideration of clean energy legislation, America’s businesses are reiterating their call for a limit on fossil fuelpollution, saying such a policy is critical to creating jobs andproviding the regulatory certainty that companies need for long-termplanning and investing. 

In recent years, thousands of Americancompanies have called on Congress to pass climate and clean energylegislation that puts a firm limit on fossil fuel pollution.  Thesebusinesses employ nearly 5.7 million workers and include 53 Fortune500companies and 20 Fortune100 companies.  (WWF)

It’s always the dirtiest companies that oppose clean energy legislation; and its always scare tactics that they use to tell us that Armageddon is nigh if we continue to transition to a cleaner world.  Looks to me like ourfossil fuel paradigm has already failed us on an economic andenvironmental level and if we continue on the business-as-usual fossilfuel trajectory, scientists warn us that Armageddon is inevitable. 

The companies that are poisoning our environment and killing people withtheir pollution are the ones who are profiting from stagnating the clean energy industry.  The longer we are confused on what it is that we want to do as a country, the more profit the polluters will make and themore of us that will die.

Valero and Tesoro, the two Texas oil companies bankrolling Proposition 23 to repeal California’sclean air and energy standards, have been repeatedly cited for producing deadly chemicals at their refineries that are exposing millions ofCalifornia families to harm. The two companies have contributed morethan $4 million to put Proposition 23 on the November ballot.

Over 44 violation notices within a three year window have been settledbetween Tesoro and the Bay Area Quality Management District. ThisJanuary, Valero disclosed that it had 29 outstanding Violation Noticesfrom the South Coast Air Quality Management District and is pursuing asettlement.

We have known all along that Proposition 23 was adeceptive ballot measure.  While Valero and Tesoro are making theirgreatest profits in years, the people of California are suffering due to the negligence and dirty business practices of these Texas oilcompanies.  (Source)

Creating a campaign of deception requires professionals with experience, and the Prop 23 backers have gone to those people that have had the mostexperience in dealing with creating campaigns based on lies andmisrepresentations.

To manage their initiative toroll back California’s landmark climate change law, AB32, big oil isturning to the same deceptive tobacco operatives who engineered PhilipMorris’ fight against efforts to tax cigarettes and stop childhood aswell as indoor smoking.  (WonkRoom)

What’s going on here in California is just a smaller version of the largernational campaign that has already proven itself successful in stallingthe implementation of a clean energy economy that would obviouslybenefit the country in terms of job creation, deficit reduction, andproviding a mechanism to create a future with cleaner air and water that inevitably will lead to lower health costs overall.

In November, California’s voters have the opportunity to provide an example to thecountry that the campaigns of deception orchestrated by Big Oil have run their course and are no longer effective.  To constantly start and stop clean energy initiatives is what is limiting the clean energy sector’sgrowth; to put AB32 on hold would be as damaging to the clean energyindustry in California as repealing it altogether would be, and becauseCalifornia’s clean energy sector is such a big part of the nationalpicture, stalling clean energy there would squash any hope of passingfederal legislation for the foreseeable future.

Let’s kick thefootball.  There is so much momentum behind clean energy.  As soon asthe federal government can get its act together and pass legislationthat establishes long term support for the industry, all of the scaretactics being thrown around by companies with the highest levels ofpollution will be seen for what they are.  The campaigns are designed to just stall, not kill, clean energy implementation.  Energy reformedstalled out on the national level and now, fossil fuel supporters aremoving to stall it out in the state level.

These stallingcampaigns run by dirty energy companies are merely a way to keep thegeneral public paying the costs while the polluters continue to reap the profits. 

Washington should be watching California very carefully.



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