You may have heard of the Dirty Energy Proposition, Prop 23 on California's November ballot. Funded primarily by two Texas oil companies, Tesoro and Valero, Proposition 23 would suspend California's global warming law -- known as AB32 -- until the state achieves four consecutive quarters of unemployment below 5.5 percent. Using the old and outdated "jobs versus the environment" ruse (so last century), the oil companies and their lobbyists are attempting to fool voters who generally support laws that protect the environment into "suspending" (they really mean "abolishing") the law. Someone needs to send a fax over to Prop 23's backers and tell them about the green economy of the 21st century.
Prop 23's attempt to turn back California's world-leading climate policy seems especially backward in a year when fossil fuels keep proving how outdated they are. Americans just don't want exploding coal mines and pollution in the Gulf of Mexico anymore. Especially when the alternative is green jobs, clean air, and public health.
Even climate deniers are starting to notice that the weather is getting weirder. Take a moment to enjoy the idle talk around the water cooler now, because it will get a whole lot more serious once sea levels start rising, and our food system starts struggling to keep up with the wild variations of drought and floods. It's common knowledge that global warming puts California's water supply at risk. But Prop 23's backers are more concerned about oil company profits.
But if you think Prop 23 is bad, check out Prop 26. This one has a lower profile, but could be just a terrible for the green economy. Prop 26 claims to stop "hidden taxes on goods like food and gas," but it actually redefines "fees" as "taxes." So? There is an important difference. Taxes go to government general funds, but fees, according to California law, must go to fix problems linked to the activity the fee is attached to. Proceeds from fees charged to tobacco companies are used to fund health programs for children. Telephone company fees fund 911 emergency response programs. Fees on developers pay for streets and traffic lights. Fees on companies like BP help pay to clean up oil spills. And if you want to stop global warming, economists say we need to attach fees to pollution.
Everyone likes to get something for nothing. But big things often take work. Hence the group 350.org's recent "global work day" to stop climate change on October 10th. And the transition to a green economy won't be free, but as the Climate Protection Campaign's Barry Vesser notes,
"All economic transitions have costs, so the question is who pays. The answer is easy: polluters. The oil and coal companies that introduce fossil fuels into the economy should be forced to buy permits, and a majority of the proceeds should be rebated to California citizens to help with higher energy costs. This is called cap and dividend."
Oil companies' economic fear tactics can be countered with dividends, and in the short term, by voting no on Propositions 23 and 26.