Prop 7: Uniting Special Interests Everywhere

It’s not often that a bill unites environmentalists and corporate interests, but Proposition 7 seems to have pulled it off. It’s also not often that a bill unites both political parties, but Proposition 7 also seems to have achieved that as well. Of course, this spectacular display of unity is all in opposition to the bill, which is an ill-conceived cornucopia of unrealistic expectations, environmentally unsound policies and the dying gasps of a system of command and control mandates which fail to take account the realities of energy production. According to the Wall Street Journal, even renewable energy advocates recognize the utter futility and danger of passing this poorly worded bill. At the point where those for whom the bill is framed won’t even support it, there’s no good reason for any California resident to do so either.

The bill claims to provide a system of clean, new, alternative energy. However, its actual mechanisms would smother the production of any sort of alternative energy by pushing small energy producers out of the market both with oppressive fines and with excessive government bureaucracy. The result is that the entrenched energy interests would only gain increased leverage over the people of California, and the internecine bickering of various regulatory agencies would foreclose the possibility of any genuine innovation. This lack of a real process for approving acceptable alternative energy sources alone should raise questions about the bill, and as of yet, it has not been satisfactorily explained by the advocates of Proposition 7.

The economic growth promised by the advocates of Proposition 7 is also utterly illusory. According to the San Diego Union Tribune, the rush to transition away from fossil fuels could be such a drastic shock to the economy that it might actually create a depression. Presumably even 370,000 new high-wage jobs would not flow from such a situation, nor would any sort of viable alternative energy, considering that it mandates the use of long-term contracts that would make any sort of market mechanisms in the production of energy completely irrelevant.

Proposition 7 will upend the balance of power between California’s regulatory agencies. According to the Los Angeles Times, powers formerly vested in the California Energy Commission would be transferred by Proposition 7 to the Public Utilities Commission, a move that would likely place delicate energy policy in marginally less qualified hands while simultaneously provoking the threat of legal roadblocks. Since alternative energy is so vital, these sorts of petty power struggles should have no place in crafting policy to supply it. Unfortunately, petty power struggles are what inevitably happens when the government is given the power to mandate drastic changes with no regard for the constraints of reality. The Los Angeles Times editorial board described this bill as a “suitcase full of devils.” Those devils should be sent back to Hell, not to Sacramento.