California 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 and Rodrigo Prudencio oppose it. Khosla has donated more than $1 million and Doerr $500,000 to the cause. Alan Salzman of VantagePoint Venture Partners is throwing a 'No on 23' event featuring Elvis Costello at Salzman's home next week. Tickets are a bit spendy -- more information here.
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 with more than $10 billion in funding.
Oil companies Shell and BP are not for it. Manysolarcompanies oppose it. Support and opposition cut across party lines. George Shultz, secretary of state during the Reagan administration opposes it.
It's California's Proposition 23 -- and as goes this upcoming vote in California, so goes the nation's greentech future, according to Donnie Fowler of CEN (the Clean Economy Network) and Dogpatch Strategies.
According to Fowler, "Oil companies are on the wrong side of the issue. But don't underestimate them -- they are fighting a two-front war. There is almost nothing that our President and allies in Congress can do to fight them. They just succeeded in Washington D.C. in stopping progress in climate and energy, and now they've turned to California, the second front. They want to turn the clock back in California and if you turn the clock back in California -- there is not a single senator in D.C. that's going to come our way. There's not a single state capital that will go forward."
"They want to stop competition," added Fowler. And by competition he means renewable energy and cleantech companies.
In Favor of 23
Who's for it? Oil magnates the Koch Brothers (another interesting link on the Koch Brothers here) 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. Fowler said 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).
Here's a link to a Yes on 23 website which 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."
Carly Fiorina, Republican Senate candidate and former HP CEO, is a supporter of Prop 23. Her opponent, Senator Barbara Boxer, opposes 23.
Follow the Money
According to Fowler, 97 percent of the money supporting the proposition is from oil companies and the Koch brothers.
What Does Prop 23 Do?
Prop 23 suspends AB 32, The Global Warming Solutions Act of of 2006, California's landmark clean air legislation. Proposition 23, if enacted by voters, will freeze the provisions of AB32 until California's unemployment rate drops to 5.5% or below for four consecutive quarters. California's unemployment rate, which currently hovers around 12 percent, has been at 5.5 percent or below for four consecutive quarters only three times since 1970.
AB 32 requires that greenhouse gas emission levels in the state be cut to 1990 levels by 2020, slated to begin in 2012.
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.
Jim Watson of CMEA Capital adds, "We have fought hard to keep the air clean, and a yes on 23 relaxes those laws and allows more CO2 to be released into the atmosphere."
There are still three weeks to go. According to Fowler, "If we don't stop Prop 23, we'll never get a chance to grow the clean economy."