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Steve Parker

Steve Parker

Posted: November 6, 2008 01:05 PM

California's Energy and Driving Propositions -- The Final Tally


Okay America! Breathe out! It's over. No more Palin, Plumber or McCain.

Back to business:

With a state-wide victory for President-elect Barack Obama (I like typing that) a foregone conclusion here in California, it was, as it's been so many times in the past, the California ballot's propositions which garnered much of the attention.

We in California have turned the "state-wide proposition" into an art form of sorts. And yesterday there were twelve of them on our ballots, from National City in the southern part of the state to Carmel on the Central Coast and up to Yuba City, north of Sacramento.

Three of the twelve props were about energy and transportation. Two of my favorite topics.

Proposition 1A was entitled the Safe, Reliable High-Speed Train Bond Act, and who could argue with that? Imagine - A Bullet Train between Los Angeles and Las Vegas! A "gambler's special" which will get you from Union Station in downtown LA (you've all seen it a thousand times in films and TV shows) to Lost Wages, Nevada in under two hours.

But that's not what this proposition calls for.

Certainly there's no argument on a Yes for 1A vote from those who have been fortunate enough to visit parts of the country outside Southern California and other parts of the world where safe, inexpensive and fast public transit is the beating heart of many economies. Think of New York City without the subway. Scary, right? Four million people a day trying to drive into Manhattan? Fegideboutit.

1A calls for selling a little under $10 billion in state bonds to fund the planning for a system of high-speed rail linking San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento.

Looks like we in California have finally summoned up the gumption to at least look at tackling a huge engineering challenge, because Prop. 1A passed with about 350,000 more votes than the "no" side.

Prop. 7 was the Renewable Energy Generation Initiative.

It would put the same onus on government-owned utilities which private electrical corporations already work under; that is, to generate 20% of their power from renewable resources by 2010. After that, all utilities, public and private, must generate 40% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and the figure rises to 50% by 2025.

Why is this important to me, a (presumed) auto expert?

Same reason it's important to everyone reading this. In the near-future, many of us hope to own an electric car and/or a plug-in hybrid car or truck. Yet even without them, electricity demand is already skyrocketing worldwide.

Plug-in hybrids and EVs are going to be among the biggest users of electricity once a lot of them are in the marketplace, so mandating that all power companies produce a certain percentage of their power from renewable sources makes some sense.

More Californians felt this proposition didn't make enough sense than those who did. Prop. 7 lost, 65% to 35%. I think its defeat is a big mistake which will only have to be followed-up on in another election, and one sooner than later.

Finally, Prop. 10. For months Californians have been inundated with TV and radio spots, newspaper ads, Websites and Blogs - many "starring" the involvement of billionaire Texas oil man T. Boone Pickens - extolling the virtues of the Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Renewable Energy proposition.

It's another bond-selling measure which would "authorize $5 billion in bonds" to "help consumers and others purchase certain vehicles, and to fund research in renewable energy and alternative fuel vehicles." It says the state would help buyers of these "certain vehicles" with grants of up to $50,000.

Hmmm ... "certain vehicles" - Now, could they have been a little vaguer?

Those who read their voting pamphlets learned that not only was T. Boone Pickens "involved" with the Prop.10 campaign, he picked-up the entire cost of gathering state voters' signatures to put it on the ballot - to the tune of $3 million.

They also found out that while the proposition reads like something most people would support, Prop. 10 applies only to vehicles using natural gas as a fuel. Got that? Applies only to vehicles using natural gas.

The coup de grace for many voters was when the connection between T. Boone Pickens and natural gas was made clear. Pickens controls so much natural gas in this country that industry analysts can't decide if he owns all of it or just a big portion of it.

Prop. 10 proponents got almost 40% of the vote, and the nays had the other 60%.

There was a famous political "trickster" named Dick Tuck. One of his greatest coups was having more than a dozen very pregnant women lined-up to greet Richard Nixon as he exited his airplane during one of his interminable campaigns.

And all the women sported big buttons with the campaign's slogan: "Nixon's the One."

Tuck might be most famous for a concession speech he gave sometime in the late '60s, I think, after an unsuccessful bid for a congressional seat.

"The people have spoken," Tuck intoned, "the bastards." End of speech.

It's a great story, but the voters tonight made a very wise choice; sometimes America surprises me, and in good ways.

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