The World Series of Renewable Energy

As thousands gathered in San Francisco to watch the Giants play Texas in the first game of the World Series, a coalition of local green groups gathered outside the stadium to remind crowds that California clean energy economy will face its own threat from Texas big oil in next week’s election.

These groups 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 Giants’ orange and black. And hundreds of lucky game goers got rally towels bearing the same message to help cheer on the home team. The ballot initiatives, both of which received funding from Texas-based oil companies, would undermine the state’s landmark climate and clean energy law, AB 32.

An incredible group of partners mobilized to hit this day of clean energy action out of the park:, Greenpeace, RAN, Credo’s Stop Texas Oil, Vote Solar, Mainstreet Moms, Sierra Club, Courage Campaign, other representatives from the No on Prop 23 campaign along with neighboring businesses including: Q-cells, 1BOG and Wheelhouse Brokerage. That’s one serious show of support for our local team and our local green economy.

Prop 23: Puts Climate Change Action & Renewable Progress on Hold

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, the 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.

The response to the polluters’ attempt to block clean energy progress has been tremendous. The state’s five major newspapers plus 40 others have opposed the proposition. In recent weeks, total donations to the “No” campaign surged past the “Yes” contributions nearly three-to-one.  More than 1,000 business, labor, environmental, and public health and safety organizations have joined the coalition to stop Prop 23. The opposition has also earned a slew of high profile endorsements: President Obama, Governor Schwarzenegger, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Al Gore, Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, George Shultz, Robert Redford, Leonardo DiCaprio, Director James Cameron, the list goes on. It all adds up to some impressive momentum in these final days of the campaign.

Prop 26: Undermines Funding for Environmental & Public Health Regulation

Although it has received just a fraction of the attention of its Prop 23 compadre, Prop 26 (also backed by big oil, along with big alcohol & big tobacco) could be just as detrimental to green economic growth. 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 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. Just this month we received two timely reminders of the economic opportunity that’s at stake from an economic perspective.  The Solar Foundation released its national solar jobs census – California claimed the top position with 36,000 solar jobs, more than five times the number 2 state. A couple days later, a whopping 32 California cleantech companies made the Cleantech Global 100 list of up-and-comers likely to make big near-term market impacts – an auspicious number, to be sure, and one that far outstrips any other state or country. Start-ups like these drew 40% of global venture capital investment – nearly $3 billion – to California in the first half of this year.

These are just the latest data points to paint a picture of California clean-tech consistently out-performing other sectors of the state and national economy. But any solar developer, wind turbine manufacturer or efficiency retrofitter knows that 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.

Prop 23 would put the state’s successful green programs on hold, and Prop 26 would undermine their funding. Both propositions pose a major risk to California’s clean energy market, and by extension, the nation’s competitiveness in the global marketplace. Both put billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs at stake. And neither are options that we can afford.

Go Giants. Let’s beat the Rangers. And then beat these dirty oil propositions.

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Rosalind manages media, member and donor relations for Vote Solar, a non-profit working to make solar energy a mainstream resource across the U.S. Prior to joining Vote Solar, Rosalind spent five years directing and implementing PR campaigns for all manner of clean energy and sustainable business innovators. She has a degree in Environmental Science and Mass Communications from UC Berkeley.

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