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. Continue reading

The Carbon Footprint of Divorce in China

Couples often remain unhappily married for the sake of the kids. Now they might consider it for the sake of the planet.

Chinese households are outpacing the population by three-to-four times.

Jianguo (Jack) Liu, who directs the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability at Michigan State University, has been tracking an interesting driver of carbon emissions in China: the explosion of households.

Speaking at the Society of Environmental Journalists‘ annual conference at the University of Montana, Liu said the number of households in China has been growing three-to-four times as fast as the population, which, in turn, is fueling a domestic boom in energy-intensive consumer goods, such as autos, air conditioners and major appliances (though one third of China’s carbon emissions are still due to products made for the export market, with the largest share bound for the US). Continue reading

Prop 23: The View from Valero

Carbon dioxide is “not pollution,” say engineers for the nation’s biggest refiner.

Listen to Rachael Myrow’s radio feature on The California Report.

Valero's Benicia refinery in Solano County. (Photo: Craig Miller)

Last week, as the campaign rhetoric for and against Proposition 23 was heating up, The California Report host Rachael Myrow and I spent an afternoon with three of Valero’s environmental specialists at the company’s refinery in Benicia, up the Sacramento River from San Francisco Bay. They briefed us on the refining process in some detail and drove us around the 400-acre refinery site, near the Carquinez Strait in Solano County.
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Prop 23 Money Trail

It’s not just big oil with big money in the game.

Prop 23 has backing from oil & gas interests in Texas, Kansas, Ohio, and Colorado, among other places.

True, most of the money backing Proposition 23 on California’s November ballot has come from two big oil refiners, both headquartered in San Antonio, Texas. But the opposition has some high rollers in the game, as well. High-profile venture capitalists and tech investors have lined up against the measure with open wallets. In fact, a tally released this week by the California Fair Political Practices Commission reveals that opponents of Prop 23 are outspending proponents by almost a two-to-one margin. According to the Commission, ten different committees have marshaled more than $13 million to defeat the measure, “mainly from individuals.” Continue reading

Schwarzenegger Blasts Oil Companies

(Archival Photo: Angela George)

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger used his appearance at the Commonwealth Club in Santa Clara today to “put a spotlight” on what he called the “self-serving greed” of oil companies Valero, Tesoro, and Koch Industries. These companies, two of which he described as among the state’s top polluters, are bankrolling Proposition 23 for their own gain, while trying to hide behind a false claim that the initiative would be good for the state’s economy, said the Governor. Prop 23 would suspend California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, AB 32, which authorizes incentives and regulations for reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Schwarzenegger’s speech was timed to the fourth anniversary of the law.

Proponents of the ballot measure claim that allowing AB 32 to be fully implemented would drive businesses from the state and could potentially cost the state more than a million jobs, a figure which has been challenged in several studies. Continue reading

Tackling Greenhouse Gases from Cars

Photo: Craig Miller

California’s regional planning authorities need to find new ways to get people to leave their cars at home.

Passenger vehicles are the single largest source of greenhouse gases in California, comprising one third of all the state’s emissions.  Senate Bill 375, passed in 2008, is designed to chip away at those emissions by curbing sprawl and encouraging infrastructure that gets Californians to drive less — or at least, not as far.

This week the state Air Resources Board met a milestone (so to speak) in the implementation of the law by sending to California’s 18 regional planning organizations, greenhouse gas reduction targets for cars and light trucks .  Now it will be up to the regions to create their own strategies for linking land use and transportation planning in ways that lure Californians out of their cars. Continue reading

Whitman, Utilities Commission Oppose Prop 23

The backers of California’s Proposition 23 can add two significant new names to its list of opponents: Republican Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and the state’s Public Utilities Commission.

Neither should come as a huge surprise. Whitman hinted at a “no” vote weeks ago, when two conservative L.A. radio hosts backed her into a corner. Forced into at least a vague commitment one way or the other, Whitman said she would “in all likelihood” vote “no.” This week it became official when Whitman released positions on all measures that will appear on the statewide ballot. In a statement, Whitman said:

“While Proposition 23 does address the job killing aspects of AB 32, it does not offer a sensible balance between our vital need for good jobs and the desire of all Californians to protect our precious environment. It is too simple of a solution for a complex problem.”

That means there’s at least one thing on which Whitman and her Democratic rival, Jerry Brown, agree. Both oppose 23, though Brown is a staunch supporter of AB 32. Whitman still maintains that if elected, she would use the provisions of AB 32 itself to suspend regulations under the law, until the economy recovers from the current downturn. Continue reading

Prop 23: The Statistical Maze

How long would California’s climate law be frozen under the ballot measure to suspend AB 32? It depends on how you read the state’s labor statistics.

There were moments during Monday’s Forum program on KQED when I thought I’d stepped through the Looking Glass.

The two principal guests were, by design, on opposite sides of the campaign for Proposition 23, the upcoming ballot measure to suspend California’s 2006 greenhouse gas law. So I didn’t expect the “Yes” campaign’s Anita Mangels and Solaria VP David Hochschild to agree on much.  But I never expected a dust-up over California’s historical unemployment rate. I mean, that’s a pretty easy one to settle — a matter of public record, right? Nevertheless, the two duked it out over just that. Continue reading

US EPA Official Says “No on 23”

US EPA Regional 9 Administrator Jared Blumenfeld, at Crissy Field in San Francisco on August 25th. (Photo: Gretchen Weber)

The ranks of officials publicly opposing Proposition 23 seem to be growing.  Earlier this month we reported that Energy Secretary Steven Chu said passing the measure would be a “terrible setback” for California’s clean energy leadership and that the state’s Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols called Prop 23 a “very serious threat” to the core programs of AB 32 and related regulatory programs.

Today, at a meeting of the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association in San Francisco, federal EPA Administrator Jared Blumenfeld urged attendees to vote against the measure.

Doing so, he said, “is certainly what you should do.”
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Feds to States on Global Warming Suit: Back Off

Navajo Generation Station. The place of coal in California's energy diet is shrinking, but that's not necessarily true for the rest of the country. (Photo: Alex E. Proimos via Flickr)

Bit by bit, the US Environmental Protection Agency is moving to limit the gases that scientists say cause global warming. Over five years, the agency is limiting auto emissions and is also requiring new industrial plants to use improved pollution controls

Sooooo, US Justice Department lawyers argue, California, seven other states, New York City and three land trusts should not be suing major utilities, demanding that they reduce global warming emissions.

In papers filed with the US Supreme court this week, Justice Department lawyers argue the authority to curb emissions that cause climate change belongs to the Environmental Protection Agency and to Congress. Continue reading