Over the past year, VoteVets.org has worked hard to represent the overwhelming majority of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, who not only see our dependence on oil as a security threat, but believe that we need to pass clean energy legislation -- even going so far as to say they are in favor of "cap and trade" (and yes, they were polled using that term).
While Washington haggles and delays, California has taken the lead. California being on the cutting edge of environmental technology and tough regulation is nothing new. Very often the state has led the way for the rest of the nation. From being the first in the nation to regulate tailpipe emissions from cars, to introducing the widespread use two-way catalytic converters before the rest of the nation, to leading the way in fuel efficiency standards, very often California sets the pace for the rest of the United States.
It's no shock, then, that big oil has pushed a ballot proposition this year - Prop 23 - that would delay (with the purpose of killing) The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. That state law would unilaterally bring California into near compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, mandating that emissions of greenhouse gasses in the state return to 1990 levels by the year 2020.
The threat big oil and energy companies feel is clear - implementation of a law that would require much greater efficiency and development of new technologies would mean less dependence on oil and other fossil fuels. That, they fear, would hurt their bottom line. So, rather than think long-term about how they could capitalize on an energy revolution and increase their bottom line in the long-run, they have dumped millions into killing the law.
Valero Energy - $500,000. Occidental Petroleum - $300,000. Tesoro Companies (oil refiners) - $300,000. And hundreds of thousands from other oil and energy interests have been poured into backing Prop. 23.
On the other side is an interesting mix. It's not just environmentalists who are opposing Prop. 23. Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger was recently joined by Republican and Ronald Reagan's former Secretary of State George Schultz. Schultz, in announcing his opposition, said, "As a former Secretary of State, I see our dependence on foreign oil as one of the greatest threats to national security, and the Dirty Energy Proposition would undermine efforts to break that dependence."
Add veterans to that opposition, and on the side of Secretary Schultz. Our dependence on oil means our petro-dollars make their way to the very same extremists we're fighting. Worldwide demand for oil, driven by U.S. consumption, means that Iran makes $100 million more every single day. And, even the Pentagon has sounded the siren on security implications of global climate change.
If history is any guide, once California proves that we can be cleaner, greener, and more efficient when it comes to energy, the rest of the nation will quickly follow suit. Bringing the entire United States in line with Kyoto won't even be controversial, because California will have shown that all the fear mongering over it just doesn't hold water. That's why big oil and energy is doing everything it can to kill off the California law now, and why all of us must make sure that they don't succeed.
Follow Jon Soltz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jonsoltz