Californians concerned about global warming, air pollution, and our society’s dependence on fossil fuels will get a chance to make a difference on Election Day, Nov. 7.

Proposition 87, the Clean Alternative Energy Act, would tax oil producers in California to fund a $4 billion program to reduce oil consumption in the state 25 percent by 2017. The program would use funds raised by a tax on oil producers to promote alternative energy such as wind, solar, alternative-fuel vehicles and other clean energy technologies. It would also fund education and training to prepare Californians for the jobs created by these new technologies.

Prop. 87 would fund this program by taxing each barrel of oil produced in California. The tax would range from 1.5 percent to 6 percent, based on the price of a barrel of oil at the wellhead. Oil companies already pay such a production tax in other oil-producing states, such as Alaska, Louisiana and Texas.

Importantly, Prop 87 specifies that the oil companies would not be able to pass this tax along to consumers in the form of higher prices.

California produces 12 percent of the oil extracted in the United States. It is the fourth largest oil-producing state (after Louisiana, Texas and Alaska) in the country. All of this oil is used in the state, most of it as fuel for cars and trucks.

The oil companies are complaining about the cost of this proposition– but they have raised over $82 million so far in an attempt to defeat it. At a time of record profits for the oil companies (according to Public Citizen, “in just the first six months of 2006, the five largest oil companies in America posted $59.4 billion in profits”), they can afford to pay a tax in California that they already pay in other states.

Replacing oil with alternative fuels is about more than price at the pump or reducing dependence on foreign sources of oil. Burning petroleum products for transportation is a major contributor to global climate change.

California has already legislated a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, passing A.B. 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, signed into law on Sept 27. Prop 87 will help the state meet the emissions reduction goals established by A.B. 32.

Also, air pollution causes the hidden, unaccounted-for costs of oil production and use: health care costs, lost work time due to ill health, crop and property damage, harm to forests, etc.

Using money that would otherwise go to the profit line of oil companies to bring about the new technologies that will eventually replace petroleum is an idea whose time has come. We have to begin weaning ourselves from fossil fuels now– not when global warming and oil depletion have become destructive crises of enormous proportions.

Forests Forever recommends a “Yes” vote on Proposition 87, the Clean Alternative Energy Act.


Forests Forever:
Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection
John J. Berger

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places