In 2006, California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 32 after the legislature had passed it with strong (Democratic) majorities. The Global Warming Solutions Act mandates a timetable to bring California into compliance with the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol and reduce California's greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020. At the time Schwarzenegger said, "When I campaigned for governor three years ago, I said I wanted to make California No. 1 in the fight against global warming" [AB32] is good for businesses."
Despite the support of the "Governator," California Republicans steadfastly opposed the bill and this year placed an initiative, Proposition 23, on the November ballot that would "freeze the provisions of AB 32 until California's unemployment rate drops to 5.5% or below for four consecutive quarters." This would kill the clean air bill, as California's unemployment rate is 12.4 per cent and has dropped to 5.5% only three times in the last forty years.
Conservatives argue that AB 32 is a "job killer" and have raised $8.2 million in support of Proposition 23. $1 million was contributed by the infamous Koch brothers -- who helped start the Tea Party movement. Almost $7 million came from two Texas oil companies, Tesoro and Valero, who have repeatedly violated California pollution laws.
Fortunately for California, there's a broad base of support to defeat Proposition 23 and retain The Global Warming Solutions Act. Republican George Shultz, Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State, is chairman of the campaign to defeat Proposition 23. In addition to environmental groups and liberals of all persuasions the "No on 23" campaign has the support of cutting edge business people such as Thomas Steyer, founder of hedge fund Farallon Capital Management, who believes that "there is a huge clean energy revolution going on" and AB 32 will create jobs.
Governor Schwarzenegger is actively campaigning to defeat Proposition 23. "Today, Valero and Tesoro are in a conspiracy" Does anyone think in their black oil company hearts that they want to create jobs?" Other Republican candidates have split on Proposition 23. Senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina supports it, saying AB 32 is "undoubtedly a job killer" and has accepted campaign funds from a Koch PAC. Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman dubbed parts of AB 32 "job killing" but waffled, saying she would vote no on Proposition 32 but if elected Governor would delay the implementation timetable until the California economy improved.
Rather than raise energy prices, AB 32 will reduce them: "Between now and 2020, without implementation of [AB 32], private electricity costs in California will be up to $100 per person higher in 2020."
The latest California Field Poll shows that opponents of Proposition 23 outnumber supporters by eleven points 45 to 34 percent. But there are a significant number of undecided voters and the barrage of polluter-funded deceptive ads is just starting.
Will the Enemy of the People scenario play out again? Will voters buy the false arguments of wealthy polluters and vote against their own best interests? Stay tuned.