Alan Salzman of VantagePoint Venture Partners and wife Jillian Manus threw a 'No on 23' fundraiser featuring Elvis Costello and Jackson Brown at Salzman's modest Atherton, Califonia home this weekend. This fundraiser -- and the broader 'No on 23' campaign -- has attracted a mix of Republicans and Democrats and a variety of strange bedfellows.
California's Prop 23 suspends AB32, The Global Warming Solutions Act of of 2006, California's landmark clean air legislation. AB 32 requires that greenhouse gas emission levels in the state be cut to 1990 levels by 2020, and is slated to begin in 2012.
Proposition 23, if enacted by voters, would freeze the provisions of AB32 until California's unemployment rate drops to 5.5% or below for four consecutive quarters. Which translates to never -- as California's unemployment rate, which is currently around 12.4 percent, has been at 5.5 percent or below for four consecutive quarters only three times since 1970.
We've written our share on this crucial California ballot initiative: Prop 23 Would Black Out Solar For SunRun, Arnold Lashes Out at Valero, Prop 23 Opponents, AB 32 Slap Fight From the California Gubernatorial Candidates and The National and Environmental Impact of California's Proposition 23.
Sunil Paul, investor, activist and attendee at this event, suggested that Prop 23 is the first time that a population has voted on climate change.
Who Supports 23? Who Opposes it?
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger opposes it. He called it a fight between good and evil.
So do California gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown. Venture capitalists like John Doerr, Vinod Khosla, Marty Lagod, Rodrigo Prudencio, Cynthia Ringo and Dan Rubin also oppose it. Khosla has donated more than $1 million and Doerr $500,000 to the cause. Bill Gates, in a rare political stand, has donated $700,000.
Firelake Capital's Lagod said that the measure threatens the future of thousands of VC-funded renewable energy startups that entrepreneurs have created in last the five years, which have garnered more than $10 billion in funding.
Oil companies Shell and BP are not for it. California electric and gas utility PG&E is officially against Prop 23. Most solar companies oppose it. Support and opposition cut across party lines. George Shultz, secretary of state during the Reagan administration, opposes the measure, as well.
Meg Whitman had said that if elected, on her first day she would suspend AB 32, to study its potential economic implications. She has since backed off that stance and is now calling for a one-year moratorium on AB 32 to study its potential impact. At the state GOP Convention in March 2010, Whitman described California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's climate change bill as a "job-killer." In a squishy bit of politics, Whitman opposes both Proposition 23 and AB 32.
The fact is that AB 32 is a greentech bill, and greentech creates jobs and industries, rather than the Whitman scare tactic of calling it a "job-killer." Maybe it kills coal-mining jobs, but that's about it.
California is home to thousands of green companies. Approximately 40 percent of green patents are awarded to California inventors. A wind farm in California's Kern County has created 1,000 jobs. Solar thermal will create 2,000 jobs. Greentech jobs have grown ten times faster than jobs in other sectors. 500,000 green jobs have popped up in California since 2005.
There are 93,000 solar jobs in the U.S. and employment is growing in that sector. The Solar Jobs Census is downloadable from The Solar Foundation.
Who's for it? Notable backers include oil magnates the Koch Brothers and oil refinery firms Valero Oil and Tessoro Oil. They claim that the measure will cost consumers jobs and money. And these parties have spent and will continue to spend lots of money to pass Proposition 23. The proponents of the measure have vowed to spend up to $50 million. They've raised $8 million so far. A list of money donors from Ballotpedia includes Valero ($4 million), Tesoro ($1.5 million), Flint Hills resources ($1 million) and Marathon Petroleum ($500,000).
The 'Yes on 23' website calls 23 the "California Jobs Initiative" and labels it "a common-sense approach to protecting jobs, preserving environmental protections, and holding the line on costs for California’s struggling families. Proposition 23 would simply suspend California’s global warming plan until the economy stabilizes, we get people back to work and we can afford these investments." About 97 percent of the money supporting the proposition is from oil companies and the Koch brothers.
Carly Fiorina, Republican Senate candidate and former HP CEO, is a supporter of Prop 23. Her opponent, Senator Barbara Boxer, opposes 23.
Impacts of Prop 23
According to Sheridan Pauker of law firm WSGR, a key policy at risk is California's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Pauker said that if the 33 percent renewable portfolio is lost, the impact could be up to $60 billion in GDP and half a million jobs.
According to Donnie Fowler of CEN (the Clean Economy Network), "If we don't stop Prop 23, we'll never get a chance to grow the clean economy."
"This is a corruption of the democratic process," said California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. "Texas oil companies have descended upon California to overturn a California law. There is a struggle playing out right here in California that the world does not know much about."
There is another Proposition, Prop 26, which could hobble AB 32 by other means.
So Aside From the Proposition, Mrs. Lincoln, How Was the Music?
Jackson Browne looked great, his voice was in great form and he played a short 30-minute set including a Warren Zevon cover. I spent a lot of time in college pretending to like Jackson Browne in order to meet girls.
Elvis Costello led off with "Red Shoes" and was also in good form. They're both doing their thing for a good cause. Hats off to them.
I have to admit, though, it was the least rock-and-roll audience and setting I've ever witnessed. Very little visible drug use, nudity or projectile vomiting. Only one fist fight.
As an antidote to Atherton, here are some Elvis Costello videos: I Don't Want to go to Chelsea and with The Beastie Boys. And while I'm at it, some Motorhead and The Clash, Billy Squire in Pittsburgh, some Fugazi and GBV, Liz Phair and The Bevis Frond. The JBs and Maceo.