Essay

Posted on October 15, 2010

1


W00t! Essay time! I wrote this! If you find a typo, it’s probably best that you don’t tell me, because I may be incited to violence. At this point, I don’t really know what I’ll be incited to, since I spent the last six hours writing a research paper. I’m not exactly normal in the brain-area. Not that I’m ever exactly normal, but whatever.

Enjoy.


Lies, Damned Lies, and Prop 23

One can hardly turn on the news anymore without seeing clips of oil gushing into the ocean and covering adorable sea creatures. Humankind’s need for energy is slowly destroying this planet, and energy companies are standing by collecting the profits. Or, this is the case everywhere except California, whose landmark anti-pollution bill, AB32, stands as a defender of the environment, holding big energy companies responsible for their environmental impact. This November, however, California’s environment is on the line with Proposition 23, which would suspend AB32.  In order to get this proposition to pass, Texas oil companies are packaging Prop 23 in a deceitful manner, as the “California Jobs Initiative.” No matter what Big Oil says to the contrary, all Prop 23 would do is lead to further degradation of the environment, and for this reason, California voters should vote against Prop 23 this November.

In 2006, California passed a momentous environmental protection bill, AB32, also called the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. The regulations in this bill echoed around the nation and the world as an example of progressive environmental protections. The primary goal is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020, a twenty-five percent reduction over a 30-year period (Sullivan 20).  A cap on major sources of pollution will begin in 2012 (Going 2). Also included in the bill is a mandate for energy companies and other large polluters to report their emissions annually (Sullivan 20). These regulations are a huge step in reducing global-warming, and preserving the environment.

The incentives created under AB32 have led to a plethora of new renewable energy projects being created. This includes the Mojave Desert Abengoa solar plant, a 250-megawatt project that will bring in eighty permanent jobs and will go into construction at the end of this year (Hsu). As well as the Alta Wind Energy Center, a 1550-megawatt project that will be completed in 2011 (Alta), and the Sacramento BioRefinery, that will displace the need for 76,460 barrels of oil each year (Clean).  All of these exciting new, economy stimulating, environmentally friendly, job-creating clean-tech companies chose to start these projects in California because of AB32. Not only did these regulations inspire many clean energy projects, they inspired other states to pass environmental regulations.

Unfortunately, California residents may never experience the full benefits of AB32, because this year, the year that many key provisions of the bill go into effect, a campaign has been launched to suspend this measure.  Ninety percent of the funding for this proposition, Prop 23, is coming from two Texas oil companies, Valero and Tesoro. These companies are afraid that having to take responsibility for their environmental impact may have an effect on their profit margin, so they have launched a deceptive ad campaign designed to mislead California voters in these hard economic times. Their arguments for Prop 23 are disingenuous and thoroughly false. Simply put, these companies do not care about California’s environment, economy, or citizens, and are willing to put all of those in harms way in order to make more money.

Proponents of Prop 23 make the claim that “Proposition 23 would not repeal or weaken any air quality, public health, or environmental laws” (Yes on 23) This is a blatant contradiction to the actual ballot language, which states that Prop 23 “suspends air pollution control laws” (California 106).  Not only would it repeal AB32, it would prevent the state from implementing any GHG controls, subsidizing renewable energy, or requiring companies to report their pollution levels (California 106). These restrictions would remain in effect until the unemployment rate drops to 5.5% for a full year.  In the past forty years, unemployment has only been this drastically low three times (Going 5). So not only does Prop 23, contradictory to proponents’ claims, suspend the environmental protection laws for what would in all likelihood be decades, it would make the government powerless to fight global warming in any way until that time.

Proponents also argue that the continued implementation of AB32 will result in higher electricity rates. In reality, what will actually cause higher energy rates is if Californians remain dependant on an energy source that is increasing in demand, but decreasing in supply—oil. The supply of oil is also exclusively controlled by an elite group of corporations who set the price, and collect the profits. Oil, and the energy it provides, is only getting more expensive. A study by David Roland-Holst of U.C. Berkeley found that without the current GHG policies, by 2020 private electricity costs would be up to $100 higher than they are currently for California residents.  That is why it is so vital to keep AB32 in place, to incentivize investment into renewable energy sources and keep energy rates low and competitive. So, while proponents of Prop 23 assert that passing the initiative will save California residents from soaring electricity rates, actually, a defeat of the Prop 23 will save Californians up to 33% on electricity (Roland-Holst 4).

Proponents also argue that Prop 23 will “save over a million jobs” (Yes on 23).  They got this figure from a study conducted by Sanjay Varshney and Dennis Tootelian of C.S.U. Sacramento, who calculated that due to the potential expenses of AB32, small businesses would hire 1,102,782 fewer people (Varshney 47). However, this report was reviewed by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, and was found to be inaccurate. They state that, “our review of this study indicates that it contains a number of serious shortcomings that render its estimates of the annual economic costs of state regulations essentially useless” (Taylor). These estimations are what led Varshney and Tootelian to calculate the numbers about unemployment caused by AB32, and so “as a result of these shortcomings, we believe that their principle findings are unreliable” (Taylor). The main argument from supporters of Prop 23, that it will save jobs, is based entirely off of erroneous information.

In actuality, rejecting Prop 23 will save jobs and decrease unemployment. In California, there are more than 500,000 jobs in the clean energy or technology field (Levy 2). AB32 helped to incentivize the creation of these jobs, and there are more clean tech-companies starting up and starting projects in California all the time, because of AB32.  There is significant evidence that proves that without the GHG emissions laws in place, these jobs would either move out-of state or simply cease to exist (Roland-Holst 4). California stands to lose half a million jobs if Prop 23 passes.

Proponents argue that California businesses cannot recover from the economic recession with these strict regulations. However, AB32 has incentivized creating clean energy businesses, and has led to the 12,000 clean tech companies that exist in California today (Going 2).  Since AB32 was enacted in 2006, private investors have poured $9 billion into California’s economy, in the development of clean energy sources (Going 1). If Prop 23 passes, these investors would find more inviting incentives elsewhere, and may move out of state. The confirmation of Prop 23 would put the clean technology industry, the bright spot in California’s economy, one of the few industries that is actually recovering, in serious jeopardy.

While the economy is a concern for the average citizen, in the long run, the health of the environment will play a larger role in the health of the people. Four years ago, the normally at odds California government came together and signed into law a bill that would fuel the economy, the environment, and the health of the citizens. Now this bill is under attack from Big Oil, who sees technological and environmental progress as business competition. All their “facts” about Prop 23 are false, and their claims are manipulative. In selling it as the “California Jobs Initiative” the backers have shown how they are willing to take advantage of Californians who are afraid during these times of economic uncertainty. That is why the voters need to send a message to Big Oil; the people will not be deceived by unreliable statistics about unemployment, nor will they be terrorized by empty threats of economic collapse. The people of California need to make a stand for the environment, for the economy, for themselves, and vote no on Prop 23.

Works Cited

Alta Wind Energy Center. Terra-Gen, 2009. Web. 14 Oct. 2010.

California. California Secretary of State. “Proposition 23.” Text of Proposed
Laws. 2010. 106. PDF file.

Clean World Partners. Clean World Partners LLC, 2009.
Web. 14 Oct. 2010.

Going Backwards. Washington D.C.: Clean Economy Network, 2010. PDF file.

Hsu, Tiffany. “Mojave Desert’s Abengoa Solar Plant Gains Approval.” Los Angeles
Times 8 Sept. 2010.

Levy, Loree, and Kevin Callori. State Survey Identifies Over 300,000 Jobs in
California With Major Emphasis on Green Practices. Sacramento: Employment
Development Department, 21 Apr. 2010.

Roland-Holst, David. Energy Prices and Califonria’s Economic Security. University of             California Berkeley, 2009. 0910071. PDF file.

Sullivan, Patrick. “Getting Ready to Count Carbon.” Pollution Engineering41.3 (2009): 20-3.             OmniFile Full Text Mega. Web. 4 Oct. 2010.

Taylor, Mac. Letter to Kevin De Leon. 9 Mar. 2010. Sacramento: Legislative
Analyst’s Office, 2010.

Varshney, Sanjay B., and Dennis H. Tootelian. Cost of AB32 on California Small

Businesses–Summary Report of Findings. Sacramento: Varshney & Associates,

2009. PDF file.

Yes on 23. Yes on 23, California Jobs Initiative, a Coalition of Taxpayers,
Employers, Food Producers, Energy, Transportation and Forestry Companies,
with major funding provided by Valero and Tesoro, 27 Sept. 2010. Web. 29
Sept. 2010.

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