Americans living in the most industrialized regions of the country have a special stake in the outcome of a California ballot initiative that would suspend implementation of that state’s global warming law until after unemployment drops, according to policy experts who favor a free market response to energy needs.
Despite being heavily outspent, the supporters of Proposition 23 appear to be within range of an Election Day victory that could help to unravel job killing regulations in other states that mirror the practices of the European Union in their estimation.
As an added benefit, the California electorate could also help insulate other parts of the country that have been more resistant to green activism, Myron Ebell, the director of energy and global warming policy at The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), has observed.
“Passing Proposition 23 would be a huge blow to the energy-rationing movement and set it back a long way,” he said. “Its defeat would not be as big a blow to our side as it would leave us in much the same position. But if California defeats energy rationing we can defeat it anywhere.”
A Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll shows voters were evenly split in late September with 40 percent expressing support for the ballot measure and 38 percent opposed. Other polls released through Reuters and the Public Policy Institute of California show more voters expressing disapproval.
MapLight.org, a non-partisan group, that tracks campaign funding, reports that opponents of the initiative have a three to one funding advantage. Environmental organizations, Hollywood activists and other individual donors have funneled in almost $31 million to help defeat Proposition 23 versus the roughly $10 million donated in support of the measure.
Proposition 23 would prevent the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law four years ago from going into effect until unemployment drops to 5.5 percent or lower for four consecutive quarters. Without voter intervention, AB 32 will be implemented beginning on Jan. 1, 2012.
Over the past few weeks, Schwarzenegger has organized multiple fundraisers with venture capitalists who support alternative energy sources and leading figures from the entertainment industry. James Cameron, his former director, has donated $1 million to defeat the proposition while the National Wildlife Foundation has spent $3 million, and the Sierra Club has spent another $1.2 million.
“Green activists like to portray themselves as the underdogs against big business in their environmental causes,” Ben Lieberman, a CEI analyst said. “The battle over Proposition 23 is no exception. But they have David and Goliath backwards here; those spending to defeat the measure and keep California cap and tax in place have outgunned supporters of reform by at least 3 to 1.”
Activists on both sides of the debate agree that a victory for Proposition 23 would have ramifications for other state level efforts — California is the linchpin. Even as the energy rationing schemes included as part of the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 have been rejected at the federal level, well-funded green groups have successfully cajoled compliant governors into implementing emissions restrictions and renewable mandates at the state level.