09/02/2010 11:14 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Challenge to California's Green Laws

California is bracing for a battle over Proposition 23. Bankrolled mostly by two Texas oil companies, Valero and Tesoro, this controversial measure on the November ballot would suspend the state's groundbreaking global warming laws before they go into effect and "terminate" the green legacy of Governor Arnold Schwarzegger. The Republican candidate, Meg Whitman, still hesitates to declare her position on this critical issue, while Democrat Jerry Brown is gung-ho against it.

Californians still view themselves as global trend-setters. Even though the bankrupt state is $20 billion in the red and its economy has dropped from ranking as the world's eighth largest down to 12th place, its blue-sky thinkers hanker for renewable energy and a boost in the green-job sector.

Most of California's consumer-protection measures, such as a cigarette-smoking ban in public places or mandatory smog regulators on cars, eventually go mainstream and are adopted in much of the United States. Whether this can happen with climate legislation, despite the economic downturn, remains to be seen.

Over on China Dialogue, an innovative website where China and the world discuss the environment, the Proposition 23 campaign is closely watched by academics, ecologists and alternative energy advocates. If passed, the so-called California Jobs Initiative, aka Dirty Energy Initiative, may have an adverse effect on the West Coast's green industry. The "Californication" of the Kyoto Protocol was seen by many as highly desirable, and Beijing reportedly will soon launch its own domestic carbon-trading program inspired by California's AB 23.

Governor Schwarzenegger's trade overtures to China's Jiangsu province, as well as to other foreign countries and provinces, have already yielded international collaboration in green technology for energy efficiency, but uncertainty over California's future energy policies is likely to hinder planning for new projects.