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Voters want Golden State to lead in green energy

by Alan Markow, published

Nearly lost in the national implosion of the Democratic Party, the counter-intuitive statewide sweep of Democrats in California, and the overwhelming defeat of recreational marijuana, was a far more consequential result of the November 2nd vote -- the defeat of Proposition 23. 

This oil-industry backed voter initiative would have rolled back the leading edge provisions of AB 32, the state bill that calls for rapid adoption of renewable energy.  Under AB 32, by 2020, the state would have to reduce its use of non-renewable energy (mainly fossil fuels such as oil and coal) to 1990 levels, and replace it with solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable resources.  The no vote on Prop 23 now clears the way for full implementation of AB 32, which will make California the nation's leader in renewable energy, as well as the fight against anthropogenic global warming.

In essence, the bill is a stimulus package for the renewable energy industry, the bulk of which is based in California.  The potential result of this decisive vote (61 percent opposed, 40 percent in favor) is to put California and California companies in the lead position as the nation and the world look to de-link our survival from fossil fuels.

Prop 23 was a complex initiative that was backed by millions of dollars in advertising by the oil industry.  The overwhelming "no" vote by the electorate makes it clear that most Californians agree with the direction prescribed by AB 32.  Environmental Defense Center Executive Director David Landecker credited the full-on effort by environmentalists statewide for the success.  "We put a lot of eggs in that basket," he told me, noting that the community had put together "a good set of talking points."

While there is no guarantee about the outcome of AB 32, there is far more hope for economic recovery through the growth of major green industries in the state than there is in the possibility of bringing back major automotive or aircraft manufacturing sites.  "Now we can build a unique California industry that enriches the state as aerospace and high technology did," said Riggs Eckelberry, CEO of OriginOil Inc. on Biomass Magazine's website.

     "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."

Prop 23 would not have permanently halted the provisions of AB 32, but would have delayed them until California's unemployment rate hit 5.5 percent -- for at least a full year.  Most economists don't see the state reaching anything close to that level before 2015.  Hence, the proposition would stifle nearly all progress in the large-scale adoption of renewable energy for five years or more.  The nascent renewable energy industry in California could never survive such a setback.

The short-term impact of Prop 23 might have seemed negligible at first, but the long-term damage to our state, our nation, and the world as a whole could have been immense.  This week, Californians reinforced their reputation as the kind of forward thinkers that created Silicon Valley and improved the lives of every human being on Earth.  At least in this one area, the state feels Golden once again.

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