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Real Patriots Demand Clean Energy

A Commentary by Froma Harrop

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Those orange fireballs you see in the news are NATO oil tankers exploding along the Khyber Pass. Afghani insurgents regard convoys bringing fuel to American fighters as easy marks. The trucks go slow and, once hit, blow up.

The U.S. military has a solution: Switch away from inflammable fossil fuels. The Defense Department has accelerated a program to develop portable gear that runs on solar power. The first soldiers to take this renewable energy into battle belong to a Marine company from California.

Wonder how the soldiers feel about the flag-waving phonies back home who are trying to kill a California law that would speed work on the technology they desperately need. We speak of Proposition 23, a rather evil item on California's ballot next month. If approved, it would essentially ditch a law -- staunchly backed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- that would cut the state's emissions of greenhouse gases.

The oil industry is spending extraordinary sums to pass Proposition 23. Its tactic is to portray something that's good for national security and California's economy as the work of "environmental fanatics." Weasels that they are, Proposition 23's authors would let the law go into effect once the jobless rate falls to 5.5 percent or lower for a year. That's happened only three times since 1970. California's unemployment rate is currently 12.4 percent.

California tea partiers, of course, support Proposition 23. Apparently oblivious to their state's leadership in developing solar, wind and other energy sources that compete with oil, some are carrying "Thank you Valero" signs. That's Valero, as in the Texas oil company funding Proposition 23.

Joe Wiezbicki, a Sacramento PR man and founder of the Tea Party Express, called the law under attack "the anti-business, job-killing California Global Warming Solution Act, which is based completely on junk science."

Every element of that statement is untrue. First off, the law will help California companies by reducing their exposure to volatile oil prices. There's no price on wind and sun -- just on the equipment that captures, saves and transmits their power. Those are fixed costs. Business likes few things more than predictability.

California's booming clean-tech industry is one of the state's most promising sources of jobs. In the first half of this year, over 40 percent of the world's venture capital investments in alternative energy went to California. That's $3 billion flowing into the Golden State in just six months.

Proposition 23 would send much of that money elsewhere. Venture capitalists had been counting on the law curbing emissions. It requires utilities to buy more power from renewable sources, thus ensuring a market for that energy. Proposition 23 would hobble California's clean-tech industry just as its Chinese rivals are heating up the competition.

They'd deny this under torture, but the tea partiers just want the cheapest deal they can get today, America's future be damned. When a Saudi sheik makes the price of gasoline go up by $1 gallon, they passively pay it. If their own government suggests raising the price 10 cents through a tax -- whether to pay down the deficit or reduce consumption of oil -- the "patriots" scream about some outrageous burden on consumers.

I'll tell you what a burden is. A burden is carrying 40 pounds on your back in the 102-degree Afghani heat as the Taliban fire at you. And those young Americans wouldn't even be there were we not funding the enemy through our purchases of Mideast oil.

Let's recap: Proposition 23 would threaten one of California's fastest growing industries. It would deny American businesses dependably priced energy. And it's bad for national security. See? I didn't even have to mention global warming.

COPYRIGHT 2010 THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL CO.

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Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.              

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