California’s Prop. 23 Takes More Hits

Defenders of AB 32, California’s clean-energy law, appear to be beating back a challenge from out-of-state oil interests, with the latest poll showing a nosedive in support for Proposition 23, the ballot measure that would essentially scuttle the groundbreaking legislation. Given that, a new report by the advocacy group Small Business Majority might be seen as piling on: It found that AB 32, should it survive, “will help increase revenues to small service businesses by $4.6 billion by 2020,” and result in the creation of 15,000 jobs.

This study comes on the heels of a Cleantech report that credited AB 32 with driving 40 percent of all U.S. clean-energy venture capital to California, making the state the clear national leader in the sector. The irony — and the undercutting power — of these reports is that proponents of Proposition 23 had hoped to portray AB 32 as a job killer, dubbing their measure the “California Jobs Initiative.”

image via California Energy Commission

AB 32 was passed by the state legislature and signed into law in 2006 by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. It sets a goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, to be achieved through a broad range of regulations, incentives and investments. Oil giants Valero and Tesoro have led the fight for Proposition 23, but have come up against determined opposition from California’s closely aligned investment and tech communities; in addition to the Small Business Majority and Cleantech studies, a long list of venture capitalists recently came out against the measure.

For its part, the Small Business Majority said that under the law small businesses will “see more demand for the products and services they provide, which will help them grow their businesses and create jobs.”

The Small Business Majority is a foundation-backed group that says it uses “sound and credible research to formulate policies and recommendations.” A New York Times “Agenda” blog item described it as “fundamentally ideological, and clearly liberal,” which led its founder, tech entrepreneur John Arensmeyer, to respond that the organization’s positions “ aren’t in lockstep with the views of either political party.”

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.