Prop 23: No’s Rally, Pros Retreat?

In what might signal a final push by Silicon Valley, an environmentally-oriented investor group today released a manifesto from 66 “leading investors” opposed to California’s Proposition 23. The group is said to manage more than $400 billion in assets.

In a conference call with reporters, venture capitalist Alan Salzman called clean technology the “next industrial revolution,” and that “California is at the epicenter.” To prove his point, Salzman pointed to $9 billion invested in “clean-tech” since 2006, in California alone, and he called Prop 23 “antithetical” to the transition that global industry is now undergoing, claiming that 20% of total venture capital funding is flowing to clean-tech, of late.

Salzman’s VC group, VantagePoint Venture Partners, is backing California companies such as electric-car maker Tesla Motors and BrightSource Energy, which was recently cleared to break ground on a major solar-thermal generation project in southern California.

The news call was organized by CERES, a Boston-based business group that promotes environmentally enlightened investment. Chris Davis, who directs investor programs for CERES, said that Prop 23 would be tantamount to a repeal of the state’s fundamental climate strategy and “a huge step backwards for California and the United States as a whole.”

“You simply don’t want to project an image of policy uncertainty in a global marketplace,” said Davis, “because capital can move elsewhere too quickly, to places with more stable commitments to clean energy policy.”

“This isn’t about wearing hemp and adopting a new kind of lifestyle, Salzman added. “It’s about using the power of technology to modernize the antiquated way we do things, so that we do them better and cheaper.” Salzman may not be wearing hemp but he’ll be rocking out tonight, when he hosts a private fundraiser, with Elvis Costello performing.

At the same time, as Dan Morain writes in a useful analysis for the Sacrament Bee, money may be drying up for the “Yes” campaign, funded mostly by oil & gas interests, while Morain’s tally has opponents closing in on their $20 million goal.

At a recent gathering of environmental journalists, Gloria Gonzalez, Americas Editor for Environmental Finance magazine, told me that Prop 23 was being watched and discussed around the world, as governments and investors alike look for a signal from California. The negative polling on 23 may already be sending that signal.

Meanwhile, some are saying the more permanent threat is posed by Proposition 26, which would require a two-thirds vote to approve any kind of government fees, including those imposed by AB 32, the state climate law that Prop 23 is designed to suspend. Asked about that, Davis, who also represents the Investor Network on Climate Risk, said other environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, are mobilizing against that measure. Wouldn’t it be something if, after all this hoopla, Prop 23 turned out to be a really expensive diversionary tactic.

Climate Watch producer Gretchen Weber is watching the money flow and updating our interactive map, showing major donations on both sides in the Prop 23 trenches.

View Top California Proposition 23 Donors: Yes and No in a larger map

  • http://www.lifewatchgroup.org Gkaplan1

    Below is a comment in the CleanTech blog ( in quotes) from the Cleveland Foundation, that might explain why such reluctance to switch from CO2 producing energy sources.

    Petrochemical industries and agribusiness, like tobacco who denied it had anything to do with cancer, deny they are causing any global warming. They claim all is due to natural cyclical changes our planet goes through. However, NASA, NOAA, NIH, WHO, UN, MIT, etc, all agree it is NOT natural, but caused by human activities, exponnential population growth and growing human consumption.
    Unless we change within the next 10 years to clean eregy: 1. NUCLEAR, 2. WIND, and 3. SOLAR, according to Prof. Fenner ( small pox), Prof James Lovelock, and the National Academy of Sciences, we face cataclysmic destruction of all life in the planet within 100 years or so.
    Please watch video ” HOME” in the net, by Yann Arthus, and see what they are talking about. See how money can be so influential to the point of our own destruction.

    “Following the money
    I get a kick when climate skeptics decry the work of climate scientists by claiming that the scientists are only in it for the money. Get real.
    The real money is in opposing climate legislation. Check out this recent posting by Daniel Weiss, Rebecca Lefton, and Susan Lyon of the Center for American Progress titled “Dirty Money.” According to their research, more than $500 million was spent within the last two years by large energy corporations (mainly oil companies and electric utilities) on lobbying, much of it to oppose climate legislation. That is more than 10 times the amount reportedly spent on lobbying by alternative energy companies. On top of the $500 million spent by companies directly, trade associations generally opposed to clean energy policies are said to have spent almost an additional $300 million on lobbying.
    In today’s pay-to-play world, why is it surprising to anyone that U.S. energy policy is so favorable toward maintaining the status quo of fossil fuel dominance over alternative energy and energy efficiency interests?”
    As posted to CleanTechBlog.com author unknown.