LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- If California were a country, it would be the world's 19th largest polluter. Recognizing that, a few years ago lawmakers here passed AB 32, a first in the nation 'cap and trade' type anti-global warming bill.
But come Tuesday, voters here have the opportunity to turn back the clock. Proposition 23 would stop the state's "Global Warming Solutions Act' from taking effect in January.
Proposition 23 would put a hold on the new emission standards until the state's unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent or less for an entire year. The last time that occured was in the 1970s.
California's landmark global warming law, AB 32, forces companies to install costly new equipment to reduce their emissions. It explains why energy intensive industries -- oil refiners and manufacturers -- want to kill the law and are spending upwards of $8 million to support Prop. 23.
"We can't afford to implement laws that will costs us bilions of dollars," says Anita Mangels, a spokesperson for Yes on Prop. 23. "When folks get past the initial rhetoric and understand how much this is going to cost them, they will run not walk to the booth and vote yes on 23."
Mangels points to studies that say California's climate change law will cost the state up to $100 billion and a loss of more than a million jobs, as businesses close down or move out of state to remain competitive.But opponents of Prop. 23, while admitting a loss of jobs in some sectors, say going green will ultimately mean more jobs and more investment. Jane Warner with the American Lung Association also says Californians are willing to pay more for clean air.
"Air pollution, it is a proven fact, triggers asthma attacks in children, it sends seniors to the hospital and is an important health issue for California," she says. "Besides, clean jobs are growing 10 times faster than the state average."
A look at the money trail reveals who really stands to win or lose. The 'Yes on 23' campaign is led by oil money, including refiners Valero and Tesoro.The campaign has raised roughly $11 million. The major contributors are:Valero $5.1 million Tesoro $2 million Flint Hill $1 million Marathon Oil $500,000 Occidental Petroleum $300,000
Opposition comes from environmentalists, including 'Avatar" director James Cameron, and venture capitalists and hedge funds that own millions of shares of solar and wind companies, many in China.
Major contributors include:
Farallon Capital $5 million Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield $3 million Environmental Defense Fund $1 million Social Justice Groups $550,000 Tiger Management NYC $500,000
Opponents of Prop. 23 lead the money race 3 to 1 and polls show Prop 23 being defeated by a sizeable margin.