Proposition 23 is an attempt to shut down California’s landmark climate change legislation.
Signed into law in 2006, The Global Warming Solutions Act (also known as AB 32), creates a series of regulations intended to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
If approved by voters, Prop 23 would suspend the climate change legislation and many relevant regulations until the jobless rate in California drops to 5.5 percent and stays there for a year. Supporters say the stringent rules and emission standards are contributing to the state’s economic slump. They argue the state should wait until the economy gets better before attempting to tackle the climate change issue.
If Prop 23 backers have their way, we’ll be waiting a long time for this to happen. As of August (the most recent month for which data is available), 12.4 percent of Californians were unemployed. Since 1970, the state has only seen three periods in which the unemployment rate stayed at or below 5.5 percent for a year or more.
As with any ballot initiative, it’s helpful to look at how it got on the ballot and who stands to benefit most if it passes. Roughly 98 percent of the money spent on Prop 23 came from the oil and gas industry, and 89 percent of the money came from outside the state. For oil companies like Valero and Tesoro – major financial backers of the initiative – it is far cheaper to repeal the Global Warming Solutions Act than it is to actually try to comply with it.
Prop 23 is opposed by a diverse array of organizations, including a number of conservative business associations such as the Sacramento Metro Chamber. More importantly, however, it’s opposed by numerous green energy investors and start-up companies. Since 2006, dozens of clean-tech companies with millions in startup dollars have chosen to set their roots in California. The opportunity these companies and investors are exploiting would be rendered void if the rules and regulations they try to comply with are removed.
The forces have aligned in a way that essentially pits “old energy” firms (the oil companies) against the developing, clean-tech market. Steve Maviglio may have put it best during a Prop 23 debate at the UC Davis School of Law on Monday when he said, “This is sort of a battle between the typewriter industry and the computer industry. The typewriter industry is saying, ‘We’re gonna lose jobs!'”
Prop 23 supporters argue that even if AB 32 is repealed, the state can still get 70 to 80 percent of the way toward its 2020 goal. It’s worth considering, but when you look at the big picture, Prop 23 is not worth the damage it would cause to California’s progress on climate change.