California’s Prop 23 Tests the Climate on Climate

On November 2, 2010 the rest of the world will find out what California voters think of climate change and climate change regulation when the state’s voters weigh in on California Proposition 23.

For the climate movement and their opponents, this is the ultimate grudge match. California passed a climate bill, The Global Warming Solutions Act, back in 2006. But critics - backed by the Tea Party's financial patrons and the oil industry, want to put the law on ice until the California unemployment rate falls to 5.5% and stays there for a full year, something that almost never happens. (To put this in perspective, California’s unemployment rate is currently 12.4%.)

That's what Proposition 23 would do.

Opposition to Prop 23 has united Silicon Valley venture capitalists and innovators, Hollywood big wigs, environmental and green job advocates, California’s largest utility PG&E, and thanks to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s one-man fundraising team, even Wall Street. (Watch the Governor slam Prop 23 here) The "No on Prop 23" campaign is out-fundraising the proposition’s backers 3 to 1. If you live in California, then you might have seen "No on Prop 23’s" newest YouTube and online ad video, starring actor David Arquette.

President Obama (and Bill Gates) joined the "No on Prop 23" coalition on Wednesday. White House spokesman Adam Abrams announced that "The president is opposed to Prop. 23 - a veiled attempt by corporate polluters to block progress towards a clean energy economy. If passed, the initiative would stifle innovation, investment in R&D and cost jobs for the state of California. The impacts could affect us all. If successful, corporate special interests will set their sights nationwide.”

Those who are interested in passing Prop. 23 argue that it will save jobs and keep energy costs from rising. Top donors to California Jobs Initiative Committee are primarily oil companies.

This is the heart of the matter. Since the Administration has been unable to pass climate change legislation, both the White House and the EPA have left the door open for state regulation. However, with the focus on the states, what happens in the states becomes increasingly critical not only at the state level, but at the federal level as well.

And on November 2, 2010, states with clean energy jobs agendas - from Colorado to Minnesota - will face uncertain futures, depending on what the states’ voters decide in the gubernatorial races.  As for California? It’s hard to say what California voters will do. Polls consistently show that California voters are evenly split.

This is a race to watch.

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