Big Oil's false choice - Page 2

The coalition to defeat Prop. 23 argues that addressing global warming creates jobs and saves the environment

Fossil fuels or a cleaner energy mix? That's the Prop. 23 question

Speaking at the Commonwealth Club in Santa Clara in September, Schwarzenegger blasted Texas-based oil companies Tesoro Corporation and Valero Energy Corporation, which have contributed a combined $5.6 million to the Prop. 23 campaign, for trying to deceive California voters. "They are creating a shell argument that this is about saving jobs," Schwarzenegger said. "Does anybody really believe that these companies, out of the goodness of their black oil hearts, are spending millions and millions of dollars to protect jobs? It's not about jobs at all, ladies and gentlemen. It is about their ability to pollute and thus protect their profits."

Prop. 23 has been unpopular even among many traditional right-wing and business interests. Oil giants Chevron and BP have remained neutral on it. Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman also renounced it, but straddled the fence by vowing to suspend AB32 for a year anyway.

According to a breakdown of campaign spending issued by opponents, oil interests contributed 97 percent of the funding for Prop. 23, while out-of-state interests were responsible for 89 percent. Kansas-based Koch Industries, run by billionaire siblings David and Charles Koch, dropped $1 million into the effort. The Koch brothers have been singled out as the financial backbone of the Tea Party.

Yet despite bipartisan opposition in Sacramento, polls suggest Prop. 23 could be a close race. A recent Los Angeles Times poll showed a dead heat among California voters, with 40 percent in favor, 38 percent opposed, and about one-fifth of likely voters undecided. The television commercials advocating Yes on 23 drive home a simple yet misleading message: "Save jobs. Stop the energy tax." A spokesperson from the Yes on 23 campaign did not return the Guardian's calls seeking comment.

Ironically, jobs are also the cornerstone of the No on 23 campaign's arguments. "We have very heavy hitters who see this as a job killer," Maviglio said. The campaign is highlighting the fact that the only economic area that has experienced growth amid the recession is green tech.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown referenced green jobs as a bright hope for economic recovery in a televised debate against Whitman, and the prospect of green job creation as a way to alleviate poverty is clearly articulated in The Green Collar Economy, a widely influential book by Green for All founder Van Jones. Green for All has joined the Greenlining Institute and a host of 80 organizations statewide in a united front against Prop. 23, called Communities United Against Prop. 23, which is part of the larger opposition campaign dubbed Communities United Against the Dirty Energy Prop.

Low-income communities and communities of color will be disproportionately affected if Prop. 23 wins, said Orson Aguilar, executive director of the Greenlining Institute. "The communities we represent are feeling a double impact," Aguilar noted. "They're suffering from pollution," since power plants and polluting industries tend to be sited in low-income communities, "and they're suffering from unemployment and the economic crisis. There definitely is a double-whammy."



At a recent green business symposium hosted by Urban Solutions, a nonprofit that aids small businesses and seeks to create job opportunities in low-income communities, a Castro District merchant explained her decision to enter green-business certification process. "I'm dedicated to going green because, No. 1, it's the right thing to do," said Elaine Jennings, who runs Small Potatoes Catering & Events. "No. 2, it's the right thing to do. And No. 3, it's the right thing to do."