NewEnergyNews: THE STORY BEHIND PROP. 87

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    Thursday, August 31, 2006

    THE STORY BEHIND PROP. 87

    Full disclosure: i have met Dan Kammen (read below) and he knows what he is talking about.

    'Regular guy' provides force behind Prop. 87
    Laura Mecoy, August 27, 2006 (McClatchy Newspapers via The ContraCosta Times)

    - At 42, [Anthony] Rubenstein has never before been involved in a political campaign. He has never been active in environmental causes and claimed little energy expertise…Yet this self-described "low-rent screenwriter" is the instigator of one of the biggest environmental initiatives in years and one of the most expensive ballot measure campaigns this year…

    - [UC Berkeley energy professor and longtime alternative energy advocate Dan]
    Kammen became his first contact among the alternative energy field's leading scientists. The energy professor referred Rubenstein to others, including Nathan Lewis, a California Institute of Technology chemistry professor…Soon Rubenstein was hosting weekly conference calls with Kammen, Lewis and about a dozen other scientists, policy specialists and environmentalists…
    - Rubenstein said he did not develop the policy in Proposition 87 -- the committee of experts did. But he said he insisted the panel come up with a way to pay for the alternative energy program Proposition 87 would create…the group realized California was the only major oil-producing state without a severance tax on oil extraction…California imposes a 6.2-cent-per-barrel regulatory fee that produces about $14 million in revenue…Proposition 87 proposes a new tax on producers of 1.5 percent to 6 percent of the value of the oil they extract in California. The size of the tax would increase as the per-barrel price of oil rises…
    - Opponents said California, with its corporate income and property taxes, already has the fifth-highest taxes on oil producers of any of the top 10 oil-producing states…[and call] the initiative a flawed measure that would have benefited from legislative review…Rubenstein said they decided against legislation because every other oil severance tax proposal died in the Legislature, and Sacramento legislative staff members warned this one would, too…

    - Instead, Rubenstein went in search of an "angel" who could bankroll an initiative campaign….He called a high school friend, Stephen Bing, the wealthy television producer and contributor to Democratic and environmental causes…Bing sent Rubenstein to talk to environmental experts and eventually to a lawyer to write the initiative. He also became the campaign co-chairman and has donated more than $11 million…
    - [A] brief flirtation with Texas oilman Boone Pickens….fell by the wayside in disagreements over changes Pickens wanted in the initiative…

    - [Vinod Khosla, a Republican venture capitalist who invests in alternative energy] agreed to be the campaign's co-chairman and has donated more than $1 million.
    Khosla opened the door to other venture capitalists and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, including investor John Doerr and Lawrence Page, Google president of products.
    Even with these wealthy contributors, the "Yes on 87" campaign is far behind in fund raising. Supporters have collected more than $5.5 million, much of it from investors in the alternative energy…The oil industry, which would pay the $4 billion in taxes Proposition 87 would impose, has donated more than $30 million to defeat the measure.
    - "I regret that I picked a fight with a guy who is so big and strong," Rubenstein said.
    He has become the chief executive for the campaign...But he said he expects to be unemployed the day after the election -- even if Proposition 87 is approved. No matter the outcome, Rubenstein said he expects to stay in the alternative energy field…"I feel this to the depth of my heart that we need to use less oil in this world," he said. "It's an intrinsic good for us to use cleaner alternatives to oil as much as we possibly can."

    Even if the voters reject Prop 87, the publicity about the problem will be helpful. On the other hand, if both sides took the money they're going to spend on the campaign and bought wind turbines, it would make a lot of carbon-free electricity for a long time.

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