California’s Proposition 23 ballot initiative, which would have suspended the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) until certain economic recovery goals are met, went down to defeat on election day. Reporting on November 3, Reuters said that the margin for defeat of “Prop 23” was about 59 to 41%, with about 48% of precincts reporting. A vigorous “No on 23” campaign poured large amounts of money into defeating the ballot measure during the final weeks of the election season, and voters apparently responded. The defeat of Prop 23 “is reaffirmation that we are a country of some enlightenment,” said Michael Eckhart, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy. “A majority of Californians, even in great stress of unemployment and economic demise, will still accept this responsibility. Rejecting an attempt to destroy the environment is a good thing.”
Funded by outside oil interests such as the Koch family and Texas oil companies Tesoro and Valero, Prop 23 would have suspended AB 32 until California’s unemployment rate, currently in the double-digit range, falls to 5.5.% for four straight quarters. Supporters of Prop 23 argued that AB 32 regulations will impose onerous energy costs on Californians at a time when they can least afford it. However, opponents of the measure, including Silicon Valley investors, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, MicroSoft founder Bill Gates, and former Secretary of State George Schultz, argued that passage of Prop 23 would strangle California’s burgeoning clean energy industry, which they see as a major engine of the state’s future growth.
Tom Werner, CEO of solar panel maker SunPower Corp. (San Jose, CA), agreed. “AB 32 is a stimulus for economic growth and innovation,” he commented, adding that SunPower will now proceed with plans to open a manufacturing plant in the San Francisco area, a facility that is expected to employ 100 people.
Prior to the election, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) published new rules under AB 32 that would establish limits on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from oil refineries, power plants, manufacturing plants, and other heavy emitting facilities. The rules would also establish a cap-and-trade system allowing the affected entities to generate credits by reducing their GHG emissions below their limits and to sell those credits. CARB is scheduled to vote on the new rules on December 16. If it approves the rules, the new emissions limits will take effect on January 1, 2012.