For those who may not know, you can literally throw a baseball from Vote Solar headquarters and hit AT&T Park where the San Francisco Giants are taking on the Texas Rangers this week. And let me tell you, World Series fever has hit the neighborhood -- big time. This sea of rabid orange and black fans ready to send Texas packing drew a fitting parallel to the election standoff facing California’s green economy and the dirty oil measures: Propositions 23 and 26. Funded in part by Texas oil biggies, these propositions both put California’s landmark climate change law and the green jobs it supports at risk.
It’s not often that baseball’s biggest contest aligns with one of the greatest challenges to clean energy policy quite so poetically. And an impressive group of organizations have mobilized to hit this opportunity for clean energy action out of the park: 350.org, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, Credo’s Stop Texas Oil, Vote Solar, Mainstreet Moms, Sierra Club, and Courage Campaign have joined forces with neighboring businesses, including Q-cells, 1BOG, and Wheelhouse Brokerage. It's team spirit at its finest.
Supporters took to the streets to talk with baseball fans about the dirty energy Propositions 23 and 26. Six large banners hung from nearby buildings shouted the message, “Beat Texas (oil)! No on 23 & 26” in the Giants’ team colors. And hundreds of lucky game-goers received rally rags bearing the same message to help cheer on both home teams. We know it worked well for Game 1 of the series, with the Giants trouncing the Rangers in a blowout. Here’s hoping California clean energy wins just as big on Election Day.
By now, most have heard of Prop 23, the oil-backed ballot measure that would suspend the state’s landmark greenhouse gas law, AB 32. As if that’s not bad enough, Prop 23 does more than put the country’s model cap-and-trade program on hold for what the legislative analyst’s office says is likely to be many years. A number of California’s clean energy policies, including the 33% renewable portfolio standard and the low carbon fuel standard, are also wrapped into the Air Resources Board’s AB 32 authority. If Prop 23 passes, that whole suite of cornerstone policies is put at risk. Considering that the state’s investor-owned utilities have largely already met the 20% renewable requirement, that would be bad news indeed for California’s growing wholesale solar and renewable market.
Although it has received just a fraction of the attention of its Prop 23 twin, Prop 26 could be just as detrimental to green economic growth. This particular measure is backed by a whole host of oil, alcohol and tobacco companies (for those keeping score, it’s the $1 million from ConocoPhillips and Occidental Petroleum, two companies with deep Texas ties, that we’re counting toward our World Series representation). California and its local governments rely on fees to fund most environmental and public health initiatives. A fee imposed on oil manufacturers is used to fund education, inspection and regulation of oil recycling programs, for example. There is a similar fee for businesses that produce hazardous waste. And the greenhouse gas law, AB 32, is another regulation that relies on polluter fees to fund implementation and enforcement.
Prop 26 seeks to redefine a number of these “fees” as “taxes.” That’s not just semantics. Fees can be passed by a simple majority vote, but taxes require a two-thirds majority, a tall order for California’s decidedly log-jammed legislature. In the entirely likely case that the two-thirds vote can’t be reached, funding for these environmental programs would shift from polluters to the state’s general fund, where they would compete with schools, prisons and other social services for taxpayer dollars. And since there already aren’t enough taxpayer dollars to go around, the programs could simply be cut in these times of tight budgets.
AB 32 and related clean energy policies have helped make California the leader in clean tech innovation and business growth that it is today. And as any solar developer, wind turbine manufacturer or efficiency retrofitter knows, it takes stable, predictable policy to drive this kind of new market growth. Suspending AB 32 and its associated regulations would effectively pull the rug out from under our clean energy economy.
Go Giants! Let’s beat the Rangers. And then beat these dirty oil propositions.
Rosalind Jackson is Director of Communications for Vote Solar, a non-profit organization working to combat climate change and foster economic opportunity by bringing solar energy into the mainstream throughout the U.S.