The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

October 29, 2008
Prop. 10: Will voters let a Texas oil man buy a bond measure?
In an editorial today, The Bee renews its opposition to Proposition 10, the Nov. 4 ballot initiative that would have California borrow $5 billion to subsidize natural gas-powered vehicles and other forms of transportation. States the editorial:

"In one fell swoop, this deceptively named 'Renewable Energy and Clean Alternative Fuel Act' would worsen the state's budget situation, undermine its fight against global warming and enrich a Texas billionaire - T. Boone Pickens."

As the editorial notes, Prop. 10 could well pass, because Pickens has poured nearly $19 million into this measure. On the other hand, groups and individuals as diverse as Bill Leonard, of the Board of Equalization, and Mary Nichols, chair of the Air Resources board, oppose the measure.

Keep reading to see statements by Leonard and Nichols in opposition to Prop. 10.

Bill Leonard, member, state Board of Equalization.
"This $5 billion General Fund bond is beyond preposterous.  It would provide direct subsidies to consumers and others to purchase green vehicles, as well as money for research into alternative fuels and vehicles.

Judging by the availability of hybrid cars from Toyota, Honda, Ford, GM, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Mercedes, Mazda, Saturn and others, it is pretty obvious that consumers are more than willing to subsidize the green vehicle movement on their own.  From the standpoint of the manufacturers, $100-plus oil and $3.50 gas provides plenty of incentive for industry to do the research that will make consumers favor their fuel efficient vehicles over their competitors' for the simple reason that consumers demand it. 

As far as alternative fuels go, there is already a lot of research going on because of the potential stratospheric payoff for success. The General Fund is not the appropriate tank to siphon money off for such dubiousness, especially when that tank is bone dry.  Just as it makes little sense for government to go into the mortgage business by printing money, there is no good reason for California to go into the green energy business by selling bonds.  American ingenuity is the ingenuity of our private sector.  Let it meet this demand and reap the rewards."

Mary Nichols, Chair, California Air Resources Board
"While Proposition 10 appears to be a measure to improve our air and protect the global environment, its public subsidies are heavily skewed toward building markets for an energy source that could increase global warming emissions.

Under Proposition 10, natural gas cars and trucks would be exempt from air pollution and greenhouse gas reduction requirements, placing them first in line for billions of dollars in taxpayer-financed rebates. Because U.S. natural gas reserves are declining and natural gas will soon be imported from Asia in liquid form, Proposition 10 is likely to result in higher carbon and smog-forming emissions than other domestic fuel strategies now being developed by researchers and industry engineers, such as cellulosic ethanol, hydrogen fuel cells and renewable electricity.

It gets worse. Proposition 10 provides no assurance that taxpayer-subsidized vehicles will remain in California. The measure requires us to finance rebates of up to $50,000 per vehicle with no safeguard that any vehicle or accrued benefit will remain in California. The proposition requires the rebates to be processed in a few days with minimal government oversight. That is no deal for California taxpayers who will be paying off this measure's $10 billion in added debt over the next 30 years.

Unlike many other vehicle incentive programs already in effect throughout the State, Proposition 10 does not require that older, higher polluting vehicles be retired or replaced in exchange for rebates. That is an obvious and serious flaw, further indicating to me that Proposition 10's real motive is not reducing air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions, but building markets for natural gas vehicles."

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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