11/07/2006 01:36 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Don't Forget The Propositions!

Californians, Arnold is way up against Angelides but we still need to get to the polls for the ballot initiatives. Winning Proposition 87 is critical. In case you haven't seen any of the $110 million in advertising yet, Proposition 87 is the Clean Tech fund that will be created by imposing a fee on oil producers who get rich off our natural resources. As I described in the LA Weekly's proposition endorsements, everyone from the greenest Friends of the Earth hippie to the neo-neocons like James Woolsey who rightly see fuel efficiency as a national security imperative wants to put the country on track toward energy independence. Everyone, that is, except the oil companies.

Such a sensible idea could only be improved upon by asking the oil companies to raise the research funds themselves. California, the measure's backers figured out, is the only oil-producing state that charges no fee for extracting the black gold that makes the oil companies so rich. (Ever moreso: Exxon-Mobil, the largest corporation in the world since it re-united the anti-trusted components of Standard Oil, recently posted $100 billion earnings and more than $10 billion in profit in a single quarter.) Alaska charges 15% on every barrel. The Federal government charges 12% for offshore drilling. Even Texas charges all of Bush and Cheney's pals 4.6%. For once, it makes sense to follow in Texas' footsteps. Pat Brown tried to get the oil companies to pony up in 1959. Villaraigosa tried again as assembly speaker in 1995. The two-thirds majority needed in the legislature made it impossible. So Proposition 87 wants to revive the idea, bring it directly to the voters, and spend the money on finding new ways to use less oil.

Of course, the liberal elitists at left wing bastions like the LA Times dismiss Proposition 87 with a cavalier wave of the laissez-faire hand. "Alternative energy is going to be developed on its own by private enterprise," declares the Capitol Journal. "There's no need for state government to play venture capitalist."

So I guess we should dismantle DARPA, then, which will spend $30 billion taxpayer dollars over the same time frame to play venture capitalist for military technology? And let's get rid of the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation while we're at it!

The answer is no, we should keep military and other research spending for the same reason we should vote for Proposition 87: because government-funded basic research has been the engine of American productivity, innovation and economic growth for nearly a century. And because directed research on alternative energy will offset the unpaid and unspoken external cost of oil production we all bear: the current war and uncertain future in the middle east. What editorials like this one seem to always forget is that if the oil companies had to pay the true cost of delivering oil -- and Americans, by extension, had to pay the true cost of gas at the pump -- they'd be clamoring for the government to build hover cars that run on guano by the next election cycle.

The good sense of catching a few of oil's crumbs is the reason Proposition 87 started out in the lead, But $70 million in negative TV ads buys a lot of misplaced skepticism. Prop 87 is now only 87 slightly ahead, within statistical margins, so turnout will be the difference. Arnold's cakewalk may mean that Democrats think they can stay home in California. But we need to get to the polls for the ballot measures. Don't just vote for Prop 87. Call everyone you know and tell them to vote on it. And tell them to call everyone they know. There's 9 hours left.