In my opinion, the political rationale for supporting Prop 23 sounds like an argument you’d make to a spouse for skipping the opera. “It’s not me I’m worried about, it’s you. You’re too tired, and our seats are right next to Sally from the bridge group. You’ll probably argue with her as usual, then you’ll get a headache and we’ll all have a lousy day tomorrow when the kids are coming for a visit.” What you really mean is, “I don’t want to go to the opera, but I’m going to make it sound like it’s your fault.”
Supporters of Prop 23, the anti-AB 32 voter initiative, make an argument that their opposition is about protecting jobs for Californians. But, I would argue that it’s really about protecting the market position of Big Oil and slowing down the green revolution that could upset the balance of power in the energy industry.
The diversionary tactics work because they are bolstered by a tinge of truth. California’s unemployment rate is alarmingly high right now, and a shift from fossil fuels to green energy is likely to cause some interim dislocations. In addition, growth of green jobs is likely to come slowly and may never reach the most optimistic levels. But, focusing the electorate’s thinking on the downside risks of California’s groundbreaking plan to increase reliance on renewable energy clouds far more critical issues such as independence from both middle eastern oil and the consortium of Big Oil companies, avoidance of debacles from market-cornering schemes such as Enron, and a rapid move into the future of work, life and employment represented by the coming green revolution.
As if to prove the point, this week the New York Times reported on a massive wind-farm project in Federal waters 15 to 20 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean that could bring the east coast as much clean power as the output of five nuclear power plants. With major funding from Google and Good Energies, a large New York investment firm specializing in renewable energy, the new project will start with development of a 350-mile undersea “spine” to bring power from the ocean to the densely populated northeast corridor running from Norfolk, VA to New England.
Valero and Tesoro refining companies, along with the billionaire oil magnate Koch Brothers, will seemingly do everything in their power to keep the rich California market from taking such big, forward-looking steps into a future that promises them far fewer riches. But, perhaps Californians need to take a long term, realistic view of Big Oil’s obstructionist goals and put them in perspective. It would be like sail boat manufacturers attempting the stop the development of the steam engine so as to protect their wind-driven franchise.
Californians should carefully examine Prop 23 and its potential ramifications for the future.