CA Prop 87: One Step in the Right Direction

November 2, 2006 at 1:29 pm
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Last night I
attended a Prop 87 rally at the San Francisco Civic Center plaza, featuring
President Bill Clinton, among others. His speech was typical Bill: clear,
direct, confident, articulate, yet plain-spoken. After six years of listening to
Bush mumble and stumble and mangle the English language while saying nothing, it
was like a cool drink of water to a man
dying of thirst. I didn’t realize how much I had missed him.


An excerpt of the speech (looks like it was recorded on a cellphone)
can be seen on You Tube:


It was a short
speech, but I think it got to the heart of what Prop 87 is about, and why we
need to support it. He exposed the tactics of Prop 87 opponents as “trying to
make the perfect the enemy of the good” and pointed out that “It’s the oldest
trick in the book.” He quoted Machiavelli from 600 years

There is
nothing so difficult in human affairs than to change the established order of
things, because those who will be hurt by the change are quite certain of
their loss, while those who will benefit are uncertain of their

[Ed. Note: I believe this is actually a paraphrasing of the following quote, from a bit less than 500 years ago:

There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.

– Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, 1532 ]

“We’re not going to
fall for a 600-year-old trick,” he said. The important thing is to make some
progress on our oil addiction problem, even imperfectly. I couldn’t agree more.
He pointed to the example of Brazil, and how they have displaced 40% of their
oil consumption with domestically grown biofuels, and attacked the Bush
adminstration’s withdrawl from the Kyoto accords on global warming. Pointing out
that the benefits of the effort include more “green” jobs, clean air, reduced
health costs, etc., he said pointedly: “This is a good deal for you.” California
has a “golden opportunity” to lead the world, he said, and “I’m sick and tired
of America being the caboose” on the train to the future. “This is a
no-brainer…except for that 600 year old trick.”


Big Oil has spent
$100 million to fight Prop 87. Doesn’t that, alone, tell you something?


Bill is right. We
have no time left to dither and wait for the perfect solutions to our problems.
We must seize this moment, roll up our sleeves, and start making some tracks in
the right direction. Doing nothing, or maintaining the status quo, is not an
option. We’re already out of time, behind the 8 ball, and we desperately need a
serious effort on the ground right now to start weaning us off of


One more
observation I’ll make about Prop 87: its opponents claim that it is a recipe for
further government waste, or even a handout to the ethanol industry (Vinod
Khosla’s team, and Pacfic Ethanol in particular). To that I say, big deal.
That’s no different than pretty much every government incentive I can think
of. And yet, no opponent has even attempted to address the
possible benefits of Prop 87, including cleaning up our air and water for
ourselves and future generations, reduced health care costs ($20 billion
annually) for things like athsma, sending less money to unstable Islamic regimes
who wish to do us ill, and building true domestic security by providing for our
own fuel needs. In other words, ignore the
cake, and worry about the icing.


How can anyone
weigh the public good benefits
against possible mismanagement of funds,
and conclude that the risk is too
? This is our environment, our lives, and our prosperity that we’re talking about.


And as for the
argument that levying a new $4 billion tax, over ten years, on oil producers in
California will raise gas prices, believe me, that’s the least of factors to
worry about. The effect of this tax on a globally traded commodity that trades 85 million barrels per day will be negligible, and will ultimately be totally eclipsed by peak oil anyway. The worst thing that could happen would be for the California oil producers to decide to leave more of it in the ground, for now, and buy it from elsewhere more cheaply, which would actually be a good thing. And in the domestic oil industry, which in aggregate earns $78
billion in profits annually, where just one of the big oil
companies (ExxonMobil) clears a $10
billion profit every quarter, $4 billion over 10 years is nothing.
Nothing! But it could make all the difference in making California a leader for
our children, for the common good, and for the right.


If you live in
California, please support Prop 87.




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