By Katelyn Jacobson
Campus News Reporter
Two efforts to clean up California’s environment are appearing on the November ballot. However, many are gathering to oppose Proposition 7, saying its poorly written rhetoric could be detrimental.
Environmental groups across the board have lined up against Proposition 7, the first initiative in a duo intended to increase amounts of renewable energy used by big utilities and decrease emissions from the state’s 23 million cars.
The Sierra Club allied with the opposition. Aldo Giacchino, chair of the Ventana chapter, held that the poor wording is more important than proponents acknowledge. He emphasized the stretch it takes to even imagine California going to 20 percent renewables by 2010, given that the current amount is only 11 percent.
“It’s not technologically feasible,” Giacchino said. “They would have to cover all of the California deserts [in solar panels] to create that much energy. There needs to be some kind of technological breakthrough in order to reach those levels.”
By 2025, Proposition 7 intends to have all utility companies produce 50 percent renewable energy, an amount that will increase by 2 percent per year after 2010 until the goal is reached. If companies fail to meet this 2 percent objective, a fine of $0.01 for every kilowatt-hour below their quota will be implemented.
Stevenson College hosted a one-sided debate on Oct. 18 punctuated by brief shouting matches, as members of the audience filled the oppositional position left vacant by an absent PG&E representative. The utilities giant was a no-show in a scheduled discussion with S. David Freeman, a former energy policymaker and proponent of Proposition 7.
Freeman denied the prospect of increased utility prices and argued against the claim that the proposition would exclude small power producers from participating in the Renewable Portfolio Standard program.
“The section that deals with energy facilities, which is the frame that tells you what counts toward the 50 percent goal, has not been changed,” Freeman said. “The section that dealt with going to the energy commission for approval of plants and related transmission rightfully said that if they’re 30 megawatts or less they don’t need to do that. They don’t need a permit from the state energy commission because they will remain under local jurisdiction.”
The California voter’s guide places environmentalist groups in the pocket of big utilities while groups such as the League of Conservation Voters and the Union for Concerned Scientists cry foul, stating that Proposition 7’s flaws will disrupt renewable power development, hike prices up unnecessarily, and stall legitimate efforts at developing clean power.
Freeman called their attacks nit-picking.
“We have an energy crisis that is not going to wait,” Freeman said. “The global warming timetable is not set by the [National Resource Defense Council] or David Freeman, it’s set by Mother Nature.”
Freeman said that if groups were unhappy with the wording of the document, this could be resolved after passing Proposition 7. A two-thirds vote would be required to change it, but any decision to work on structure would be unanimous, Freeman said.
“The risk of passing this thing up versus the risk of passing it is not even debatable,” Freeman concluded.
Both sides of the argument agree that California must do something to ease the growing strain on the environment, but Giaccino holds that there are better ways to implement what would otherwise be a crucial proposition.
“Creating legislation that is murky and unclear only leads to massive lawsuits,” Giaccino said. “It has to be practical, constructive and effective or it’ll lose credibility with the people.”