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Fight over global warming initiative heating up

June 23, 2010 7:24:17 PM PDT
Big oil and environmentalists in California are getting locked and loaded for a fight that voters will soon be right in the middle of.

As of Wednesday, there are enough signatures to let voters decide whether to delay the state's new global warming law until the economy improves.

Texas oil giants Valero and Tesoro contributed most of the $3 million needed to gather enough signatures to put the California Jobs Initiative on the November ballot. It would suspend the state's landmark global warming initiative, known as "AB 32," until the unemployment rate remains steady at 5.5 percent or less for one year.

Businesses, in effect, would be able to delay spending the money needed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions during these tough economic times.

"The last thing we want to do is perpetuate a tax and regulatory climate that sends out a big 'Not Welcome' sign to businesses in the state of California," Jon Coupal with the California Jobs Initiative says.

California has seen a 5.5 percent or less unemployment rate for at least one year only three times in the last 30 years. Since the jobless rate today is 12.4 percent, it could be a long time before AB 32 is implemented again.

Paul Knepprath with Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs says, "This initiative will turn back the clock. It will repeal, it will kill the momentum that we've made to clean up our air. The oil companies really don't care about what Californians breathe."

Signing it into law in 2006, AB 32 is seen as part of Governor Schwarzenegger's legacy. It encouraged clean cars and sparked alternative energy investment. He believes AB 32 will continue to create jobs in green tech industries, a sector in which California leads.

"But, that does not hold back any greedy oil companies from Texas to come in to California, trying to roll back our progress that we have made," he said in May. "Everyone will come together and we will push back."

But, companies that are not part of the green wave might struggle with costs like converting to hybrids or solar panels in order to reduce their carbon footprint required by AB 32.

Julian Canete with the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce says, "Someone will lose their health insurance. Someone will lose their job. A business will just close down."

As seen in the June primary, corporate-backed initiatives do not always win. Voters rejected the Mercury Insurance and PG&E proposals.


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