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Politics and Issues

Vote No on Proposition 10

The wrong road toward cleaner vehicles
October 2008

By Jim Metropulos, Senior Advocate, Sierra Club California

Sierra Club opposes Proposition 10, The California Renewable Energy and Clean Alternative Fuel Act, because it would put California on the wrong road to cleaner vehicles.

Proposition 10 would provide $5 billion in general obligation bonds for four main purposes:

1. alternative fuel vehicles rebates and research ($3.425 billion),

2. renewable energy ($1.25 billion),

3. renewable energy demonstration ($200 million), and

4. "clean tech" education and training ($125 million). The primary funder of the initiative is Clean Energy Fuels Corp., which, according to its website, is the largest provider of natural gas for transportation in North America and also builds and operates natural gas fueling stations.

Prop. 10's backer would benefit financially from its passage, because the main thrust of the measure is to provide close to $3 billion dollars in bond funds to be distributed as rebates to buyers of "clean alternative fuel vehicles."

The measure has several drawbacks. First, the initiative sets a low bar for "clean alternative vehicles," which it says must produce "no net material increase in air pollution" relative to gasoline or diesel. Vehicles that meet this standard would do little, if anything, to reduce air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions.

Second, the State already provides significant incentives for natural gas and alternative-fuel vehicles, including a $200 million clean fuels program paid for by fees.

Third, we question the use of bond funds for rebates. Traditionally, bond funds pay for large public works projects that would normally be too expensive for the state to afford. Proposition 10 doesn't set up a system to pay back the state's big borrowing; instead it relies on future state tax collections.

Fourth, we worry that Proposition 10 could lead to the creation of environmentally-harmful dams, as it includes all classes of hydroelectric power as renewable energy. This conflicts with existing state law that generally limits the "renewable" designation to smaller hydroelectric installations and to facilities that don't impound additional water. Defining dams as "renewable" could also create confusion in utilities' attempts to comply with the California Renewable Portfolio Standard law.

Prop. 10's promise of more clean alternative vehicles sounds good on its surface. However, the initiative would accomplish little to facilitate real, sound alternative energy or technologies, and its reliance on long-term borrowing for short-term benefits and potentially obsolete technology would put us on the wrong road.

Joining Sierra Club in opposing Proposition 10 are the League of Women Voters, California Nurses Association, California Federation of Teachers, Consumer Federation of California, Consumer Watchdog, the Utility Reform Network, and California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.

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