California voters defeat Proposition 23

By Erin Voegele | November 04, 2010

California voters made a historic vote Nov. 2 to retain the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act, also known at AB 32. A proposition included on the state ballot sought to delay implementation of the program, which includes California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, until the in-state unemployment rate dropped to 5.5 percent or less for a full year.

While proponents of the measure, known as Proposition 23, claimed the continued implementation of AB 32 would magnify the state’s economic problems by increasing unemployment and raising energy prices, opponents of the measure argued that delaying implementation of the program would hurt the state’s booming clean technology sector.

According to election results posted to the California Secretary of State’s website, California voters voted to reject Proposition 23 by a measure of 61.1 percent to 38.9 percent. In fact, the proposition was defeated by a higher margin than any other proposition on the ballot.

"An amazing thing happened yesterday: the voters of California made it clear that they welcome and want clean technology," said Riggs Eckelberry, CEO of OriginOil Inc. "Now we can build a unique California industry that enriches the state as aerospace and high technology did. In the process we will also improve the quality of life for everyone living here…This state is a lab for the rest of the world and it’s here that we will demonstrate not only that we can live clean, healthy and sustainable lives, but that we can launch another wave of prosperity for our state in the process."

The Apollo Alliance, a San Francisco-based coalition of labor, business, environmental and community leaders, also weighed in on the vote and the economic benefits the clean energy sector is bringing to the state. "We have seen firsthand what the clean energy economy can do for a state with unemployment hovering above 12 percent," said Cathy Calfo, Apollo Alliance’s executive director. "As unemployment surged at the outset of the recession, jobs in California’s clean energy economy actually grew by 5 percent. This state leads the nation in the number of clean energy jobs, businesses and patents generated. As is historically the case in America, California is once again leading the way by placing our environment and our economy before the profit margins of big oil companies by voting to maintain Assembly Bill 32."

The Environmental Defense Fund has also applauded California voters for rejecting Proposition 23. "Millions of voters said they see clean energy jobs as the path forward through a tough economic climate," said EDF President Fred Krupp. "That sends a strong message far beyond California. Voters asked their leaders to chart a future toward clean energy, less pollution, and less dependence on imported oil. Congress should pay attention."

The EDF also noted that the global green energy market is expected to increase 800 percent in the next decade, from a $10 billion market in 2010 to an $80 billion market in 2020. This increase would make it the world’s third-largest industrial sector. "If America follows California’s lead, it can be one of the biggest winners in this growing, multi-billion-dollar economy," said Derek Walker, EDF California climate initiative director. "Our energy, economic and environmental future depends on us seizing this opportunity."

The Union of Concerned Scientists said the voters’ message to policymakers couldn’t be any clearer; the public wants clean, renewable energy. "Oil companies and other polluters spent tens of millions of dollars to drive a stake in the green heart of the nation, but instead they galvanized a powerful, bipartisan coalition that showed the world that the public does in fact support clean energy policies that improve air quality, generate clean energy jobs, and put the brakes on global warming," said Erin Rogers, UCS’s western climate and energy program manager. "Using fear-mongering and scare tactics, the polluters tried to convince Californians that a healthy economy and a clean environment are incompatible. Voters saw through that, recognizing the two are intertwined. We can have both, and we can’t afford to have one without the other."

However, not all stakeholders agree that denial of the proposition will be good for California. "Proposition 23 was defeated because a sophisticated multimillion-dollar misinformation campaign falsely led Californians to believe they were voting to clean their air of pollutants that posed a danger to their health," and Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association. "In fact, Proposition 23 would simply have temporarily postponed drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that are made up largely of carbon dioxide, the same substance humans and animals exhale after every breath we take. The postponement would have been in effect only until California’s unemployment rate dropped to reasonable levels for a year. The defeat of Proposition 23 will hurt families across California by destroying jobs and raising the costs of gasoline, diesel fuel, electricity and more. It is the wrong medicine at the wrong time for California’s ailing economy…I would not be surprised to see Californians vote again on this issue in the future, after the full magnitude of the suffering created by AB 32 becomes a reality."

For additional information on Proposition 23, please see "Prop. 23 could curtail California’s clean energy industry."