Prop. 10 — Lots Wrong With Billionaire’s Energy Measure
There’s something for everyone to object to in Proposition 10. Groups as varied as unions, anti-tax organizations, consumer watchdogs, environmentalists and chambers of commerce oppose the so-called Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Renewable Energy Bonds Initiative.
On the other side is Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, who put up most of $3.75 million to get the initiative on the ballot. Critics point out Mr. Pickens stands to profit nicely. Prop. 10 would provide extensive subsidies for vehicles conveniently powered by natural gas, a fuel produced by his Seal Beach-based Clean Energy Fuels Corp.
Prop. 10 would authorize sale of $5 billion in general-obligation bonds that over 30 years would cost about another $5 billion in interest, a total of nearly $10 billion drained out of the state’s beleaguered general fund.
Money raised would provide $3.4 billion in rebates and incentives to "help" consumers buy "alternative fuel" vehicles. California taxpayers would repay about $6.8 billion in principle and interest to subsidize these purchases of vehicles mostly powered by Mr. Pickens’ preferred fuel, natural gas.
Another $1.2 billion would be channeled into solar, wind and renewable energy incentives and research and development. More subsidies. About $325 million in grants also would be handed to local governments to construct and operate projects to demonstrate these alternative fuels, and to public colleges for research, training and tuition assistance.
Taxpayers providing up to $50,000 to subsidize a private truck purchase is deleterious enough. But opponents point to a loophole permitting out-of-state trucking firms to purchase entire fleets of natural-gas vehicles in California then leave the state to do business. At $50,000 a pop, that’s a pretty hefty California taxpayer subsidy of non-California businesses.
The initiative also would establish three new bureaucratic administrations within the existing state Board of Equalization, Air Resources Board and California Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission to regulate, oversee, dole out money and otherwise insinuate government into realms in which it has no business meddling.
On top of the new and, in some cases, duplicative bureaucracies, purchases encouraged by the proposition are projected to generate more sales taxes, something pleasing to tax-hungry government agencies, although not even enough revenue to offset the new administrative costs.
Most egregious is the attempt to pick economic winners and losers, while ostensibly saving the planet. "We’re trying to move consumer behavior," said Prop. 10 consultant John Dunlap.
The fact that consumer behavior isn’t something the government has legitimate authority to "move" is lost on those who deem themselves wiser than free consumers freely making their own decisions.
Whether Californians wean themselves from oil-powered vehicles and choose to smudge the landscape with windmills and solar panels should be their decision.
Californians need the government to lift its thumb from the scales so informed decisions can be weighed without undue influence from self-serving special interests and government bureaucrats in search of new realms to govern and new sources of revenue. We urge a "no" vote on Prop. 10.