"Make History, Arnold!" say Thomas Friedman/NY Times
- We're seriously backed up on news to send out, but this one shouldn't
wait. Californians have less than three weeks to get the word out
about how Prop 87 is the next step to get to a non-petroleum
economy. Here's one effective argument, by influential New York
Times columnist Thomas Friedman:
Make History, Arnold!
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
October 20, 2006
NYTimes OP-ED COLUMNIST
Governors don't often get a chance to make big-time history, but Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger of California has that opportunity now - if
he's ready to get off the fence. With one move, Governor
Schwarzenegger could make California America's hub for developing
"green" clean-power technologies - which are going to be the growth
industry of the 21st century - and do something that President Bush
has only paid lip service to: really help to end America's oil addiction.
Do it, Arnold. C'mon, just do it.
Here's the basic story: This Nov. 7, Californians will be asked to
vote yes or no on Proposition 87, a ballot initiative that would
impose a higher extraction fee on oil pumped in California. (Up to
now, oil companies in California have paid a very low extraction fee
compared with those in other states - a rip-off they want to keep.)
The new funds raised by Prop 87, explained The San Francisco
Chronicle, "would be used to finance research and development of
alternative fuels in universities; education campaigns; and subsidies
to consumers who buy vehicles that use alternative fuels and
businesses that produce and distribute alternative fuels. ... Oil
companies would be taxed between 1.5 percent and 6 percent on oil
production depending on the price of oil per barrel. The tax would
end by 2017 or when the tax generates $4 billion, whichever occurs first."
Passage of Prop 87 would be huge. To begin with, it would be the
perfect complement to the carbon reduction law that Arnold just
signed. That law requires California to reduce its carbon dioxide
emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Prop 87, for its part, sets a goal
of a 25 percent reduction in oil consumption in California in 10
years. Today, California consumes about 16 billion gallons of
gasoline a year, so a 25 percent reduction, if realized, would put
California well on its way to meeting its new carbon emissions goal.
But Prop 87, by also raising a $4 billion energy fund, and devoting
most of it to nurturing new fuels and more fuel-efficient vehicles
and buildings, would enable California to consistently enhance those
companies, communities and schools now pioneering alternative
energies. As anyone who has followed the alternative energy movement
knows, one of its greatest weaknesses has been that Washington has
constantly started and stopped subsidies for things like solar and
wind power - so technologies have been innovated here but then turned
into marketable products overseas.
By combining renewable-energy targets and a $4 billion fund to
consistently support the start-up of companies to reach those targets
in a free-market way, California would set a compelling example for
other states - and maybe even for Washington.
The reason that Mr. Bush's call a year ago to end our oil addiction
has been a total flop has to do with a struggle in his administration
between foolish market worshipers led by Dick Cheney - who insist
markets will take care of everything - and wiser, nuanced policy
makers who understand that government's job is to set broad goals and
standards, and then let the market reach them.
The best example of that is the 1999 Texas Renewable Portfolio
Standard - a state law signed by whom? Gov. George W. Bush! The law
required Texas electricity companies to buy a set amount of renewable
power by 2009. This stimulated the Texas utilities marketplace to
erect huge wind farms. Today, Texas is a real leader in wind energy
and has sharply driven down the cost through innovation.
President Bush, meet Governor Bush.
Naturally, oil companies like Exxon Mobil - which just paid its
outgoing chairman, Lee Raymond, $400,000,000 in his final year - are
financing misleading ads to try to fool Californians into rejecting
Prop 87. Polls show it's too close to call. And that brings us back
to Arnold. He's on the fence. Even though he'll be re-elected in a
landslide, he's not come out for Prop 87 - because he's against
higher taxes, in principle. But he hasn't come out against it either.
If he, and wife, Maria, openly support it, Prop 87 passes. It's that simple.
Bill Clinton said it best: "California is being given an opportunity
... to do something remarkable to save the planet, improve our
national security and create the next generation of good jobs for the
American people. That's what Prop 87 represents."
And Governor Schwarzenegger can determine whether or not that
opportunity is seized. C'mon, Arnold, just do it. No one will
remember you for sparing Exxon from a tax hike. And no one will
forget you for spurring America to realize the dream of a clean,
independent energy economy.
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Felix Kramer fkramer@...
Founder California Cars Initiative
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