Californians Ascend to National Power

Californians Ascend to National Power

As the Barack Obama administration takes the reins on energy policy, Californians such as Lawrence-Berkeley National Lab Director Steven Chu, ascending to Department of Energy secretary, and Rep. Henry Waxman, becoming chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, are set to have great influence at the national level.

The result, analysts say, is a likely shift to much more interventionist federal environment policy. The change in environmental policy may rouse popular opposition, if the results of recent California ballot initiatives give any indication.

Opposition Strong

On the November 2008 statewide ballot, three propositions illustrated California voters’ frustration with the fiscal impact of increasingly stringent environmental regulations. Of the three propositions seeking voters’ permission to implement more stringent environmental standards—Propositions 2, 7, and 10—only one passed.

Even most environmentalists lined up against the campaigns for “clean energy” and alternative fuels promised by Propositions 7 and 10, urging Californians to reject them. The initiatives were largely funded by out-of-state billionaires.

Proposition 10, known as the California Alternative Fuels Initiative, would have directed substantial funds to the renewable power industry, in addition to existing state subsidies. The initiative received only 41 percent support at the polls.

Proposition 7 would have required Californians to purchase half of their electric power from renewable resources by 2025, accelerating renewable power mandates already on the books. Current state law requires 20 percent renewable power by 2017, and the state’s Air Resources Board’s climate change regulations will require 33 percent renewable power by 2020.

Proposition 7 received only 35 percent of the vote.

Problems Expected

Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, believes the California experience foreshadows political problems for the Obama administration when the public begins feeling the consequences of new government mandates on the national level.

“It looks like Californians are getting fed up with ever-higher energy prices,” Ebell said. “Members of the 111th Congress should take note.”

“President Obama’s appointments in the environmental and energy policy arena—and Henry Waxman’s coup in the House of Representatives—are quite troubling,” said Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis. “Many people hoped Obama would work as a centrist to promote policies that would in fact improve our supplies of energy and use sound science to guide environmental policy. Instead, he has backed environmental radicals at every turn.

“These two Californians illustrate an ascension of people who ignore science in the management of wildlife and game, and instead support a radical animal rights agenda,” Burnett explained. “These are political appointees who show no recognition of the critical role that fossil fuels must continue to play in a vibrant economy. These are people who fail to recognize the extent to which reality has undermined the argument that human activities are causing catastrophic global warming.”

Tom Tanton ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute.

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