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AB 32 in the National Spotlight

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By Ann Notthoff

Originally posted on The MarkUp.

As summer turns to fall and hopes for federal climate action fade, all eyes are turned to California - but not for the gubernatorial or senate races. Those are important surely, but something else has riveted the nation's attention: Proposition 23. In the past week, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have published major news stories on this initiative, and the Times ran an editorial this week opposing its passage and highlighting its national significance. The Los Angeles Times has devoted regular coverage to Proposition 23 since it was slated for the November ballot.

Why all the hoopla? Because Proposition 23 is a bald-faced attempt by out-of-state oil refiners to quash AB 32, California's landmark climate bill. In the four short years since it was enacted, AB 32 has sent a clear market signal that has attracted billions of dollars in investments, generated thousands of jobs and put California on the path of cutting our global warming pollution. George Shultz, the former Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan has joined with NRDC and others to co-chair the No on 23 campaign. He noted in this week's New York Times editorial that AB 32 has created an "outburst" of venture capital investment and high tech innovation in the Golden State.

If we don't stop Proposition 23, it will affect more than California. AB 32 is a game changer - and the same can be said of Proposition 23. They promise two very different futures. Implementation of AB 32 will continue California's environmental legacy as a national and world leader in both the development of clean energy and combating global warming. It is a giant step forward. But if AB 32 is a great step forward, Proposition 23 is a Brobdingnagian step back. It keeps California stuck on fossil fuels, and assures laggard status in the race for the new technologies that will drive the world economy in the coming century. In the recent New York Times front page news story, Gene Karpinksi, the president of the League of Conservation Voters, called Proposition 23 "...by far the single most important ballot measure to date testing public support for... a clean energy economy."

So as we get to crunch time (voting starts early on the west coast by absentee ballots arriving as early as October 4th), Californians will be voting for more than candidates and measures. Proposition 23 is a referendum on just who we are as a people - confident of today and the future or afraid to let go of the past. Make no mistake: regardless of how Californians vote, there will be winners and losers in the clean tech race. The New York Times editorial expressed this eloquently:

"Who wins if (AB 32) is repudiated? The Koch Brothers, maybe, but the biggest winners will be the Chinese, who already are moving briskly ahead in the clean technology race. And the losers? The people of California, surely. But the biggest loser will be the planet."

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