Prop. 7 draws strong opposition


Not since the 1970's has a coalition of political bedfellows in California been so solidly aligned against an initiative.

In the hills of southern Solano County, each of the nation's largest wind turbines turn enough power to keep the lights on in 1500 hundred homes. Under Proposition 7, more of sources of renewable energy would have to be built.

The measure would require that all power utilities get half of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025 -- 20 percent by 2010.

"Global warming has become California warming, and at the same time we have to do something about our energy future," said Jim Gonzalez from Yes on 7.

Gonzalez is the spokesperson for the "Yes on 7" campaign.

"This really moves California forward -and it will create 375,000 jobs. We need jobs in this economy and us becoming the center for energy technology in the nation -- that's what Prop. 7 does," said Gonzalez.

The initiative is the brainchild of Peter Sperling, a devout environmentalist. He's better known as an executive of the University of Phoenix and the son of its founder.

Sperling is one of the richest men in America. In fact, Sperling has donated most of the nearly $7.5 million the "yes" campaign has raised so far.

Sperling is not an alternative-energy expert, but he has a few notable scientists on his side, including a former NASA climate expert and three Nobel laureates at UC Santa Barbara.

Opponents of Proposition 7 say the measure is well intended, but poorly executed.

"Virtually the entire environmental community read Prop. 7 very carefully and realized that while it sounds very good - it's actually not going to get the job done - it actually could in fact hinder development for new renewable resources in California instead of actually help it," said Dan Kalb of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

In fact, a rare political camaraderie has been forged against Proposition 7. It includes the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the Chamber of Commerce, nearly every major environmental group in the state, the California Solar Industries Association, the California Taxpayers Association and the California Labor Federation.

"This will not result in 50 percent renewable it will actually set us backwards," said Jan Smutney-Jones from Independent Energy Producers.

Smutney-Jones is with the Independent Energy Producers. He represents small power producers around the state who worry some of the ambiguous language in Proposition 7 will put them out of business.

"It is poorly drafted in ways that will lead to lawsuits, that will lead to time delays, at a time when we cannot afford lawsuits and time delays at a time when we are trying to bring renewable resources to California," said Smutney-Jones.

Proposition 7 would also give the California Energy Commission new authority to approve permits for large renewable energy power plants capable of producing 30 megawatts or more -- an authority currently held by local governments.

Energy generators say that will hurt them. Supporters say the idea is to create a fast-track permitting process for renewable projects.

"The players in California don't like that we came up with something that's not their idea, and that's very, very sad because it is a good idea and just because they were not invited to the table doesn't mean they should oppose it," said Gonzalez.

Currently, California renewable energy production stands at 11 percent with a pledge to be at 20 percent by 2010.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to boost this number to 33 percent by 2020 as part of a multi-sided effort to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

If Proposition 7 passes, it will take a vote of two-thirds of the legislature to make any changes to the initiative -- the same number of votes required to pass the state's budget.

Related Links:

  • No on 7
  • Yes on 7

    Written and produced by Ken Miguel.

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