Polling Shows Oil-Backed Initiative in Trouble

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pollution-backing-prop-23.jpg It was last June when the voters of California sent a loud and clear message that they would not be fooled by a deceptive ballot measure backed by tens of millions from PG&E in order to help PG&E corner the market on energy, under the guise of democratic protections that in most cases already exist.

Apparently big Texas oil -Texas-based Valero Energy Corporation and Tesoro Corporation along with Kansas-based Koch Industries (Kansas apparently does not generate the same fear as Texas oil) – did not get that memo however, as they sponsored Proposition 23.  This time they sought to use the economy as a wedge to get Californians to suspend the ambitious AB 32, which has stringent requirements for carbon emission reductions.

Proposition 23 would suspend the state’s air pollution law until unemployment falls to at least 5.5 percent for one year.  Sounds reasonable until you realize how few times that has happened in the last thirty years (three times) and that it is unlikely to happen any time soon.

Opponents argue that suspension of AB 32, which established a first-in-the-world program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, would not only damage the environment, it would also jeopardize California’s standing as a leader in the green economy. In fact, opponents argue, policies like AB 32 have helped create and sustain more than half a million jobs statewide.

“Attempts to shelve the state’s landmark law to combat climate change are regressive, short-sighted and counter-productive, and I urge Californians to vote no on Proposition 23,” Democratic Governor Candidate Jerry Brown said in a September statement, reaffirming his opposition to Prop 23.

New polling suggests that support for the measure has declined.  In the PPIC poll released this week, they found that likely voters are now much more likely to say they will vote no (48%) on the proposition than yes (37%), while in September they were closely divided (43% yes, 42% no). Across parties, opposition has increased slightly among Democrats (53% today, 48% September) and Independents (54% today, 43% September), while support has held steady among Republicans (46% today, 45% September).

The PPIC has found that an aggressive campaign by environmental groups and Northern California investors is starting to sway public opinion.

While out-of-state oil companies have spent millions backing the measure, they have been outspent in recent weeks by opponents, who have contributed more than $10.6 million this month.  That comes on top of the $12.6 million reported by the No on 23 campaign of Sept. 30.

Some of the largest donations have come from the National Resources Defense Council, the National Wildlife Federation and investors in alternative energy.

“When you have that kind of money to spread misinformation about what Proposition 23 is all about, it’s not surprising that the numbers have shifted,” Anita Mangels, a spokeswoman for the Yes on 23 campaign, said of the latest poll.

The declining support for Proposition 23 is a sign voters are seeing through the oil industry’s “deception,” said Steve Maviglio, a spokesman for the measure’s opponents.  “I don’t think the oil companies knew what they got into when they decided to try to overturn such a popular law.”

What has happened is that Californians have become much more sophisticated about a lot of these ballot measures that are deceptive.  PG&E was the tough test because of how much the opposition was outspent by the utility giant.  This is much more typical, with some estimates showing about $9 million contributed by the oil giants, but suddenly there appeared $28 million from environmental groups and a lot of start-up companies.

What many who oppose tougher air standards fail to recognize is that the market is far more responsive to government intervention than people believe.  Thus, creating tougher air standards may not harm but rather help the economy as it forces industry and start-up companies to become more and not less innovative. 

There is a huge burgeoning market of green energy, greenhouse gas reducing technologies, mitigations, retrofitting, construction, solar industry, and other high-tech endeavors that are thriving simply because people are starting to look at ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Those who want to continue to argue against the scientific consensus on climate change miss a key point – we are out of time if the climate experts are correct.  We cannot continue to debate for ten more years.  We have to act.  The best way to act is to use our market advantage to build new, cleaner burning technologies and export those technologies across the globe.

At that point, it becomes a win-win, we improve the environment and at the same time fuel a new economic boom.

Voters in California will send a powerful message in a few weeks, and that will, in fact, force oil companies to abandon their “business as usual,” which should benefit everyone.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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13 thoughts on “Polling Shows Oil-Backed Initiative in Trouble”

  1. Dr. Wu

    Even those who don’t agree with climate change should consider what dependence on foreign oil is doing to this country–how many more wars can we afford in the Middle East? … and we’ve seen what offshore drilling can do.

    Energy efficiency is a growth industry.

  2. hpierce

    IMHO, even those who question human-made climate change [climate change itself is a given, the question is whether it is due to human actions], are/will see thru the BS and send this proposition down “in flames”… just hope that when we do, someone won’t accuse us of adding to ‘global warming’.

  3. itsme

    “…the market is far more responsive to government intervention than people believe.”

    YES! How do you think we got hooked onto cars? By government policies to build highways and starve mass transportation.

    Let’s not get too complacent; let’s everyone send a resounding HELL NO to Prop 23.

    Anyone notice Prop 26, the ugly cousin of Prop 23? Prop 26 will shift the cost of cleaning up after toxic industries to the victims, us.

    So let’s all get out to vote NO and NO to Props 23 and 26 and all other forms of corporate control.

  4. highbeam

    Sorry that we just used the acronym in this article…2 days ago, Whitman/Brown article was the most recent to identify PPIC as standing for Public Policy Institute of California, a non-profit based in the Bay Area. Please see website ppic.org.

  5. wdf1

    Here’s the survey from the PPIC (Public Policy Institute of California). See pages 4 & 11

    [url]http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/survey/S_1010MBS.pdf[/url]

    plus most of what you might like to know about the poll and how it was done.

  6. E Roberts Musser

    Did some research on PPIC: From Cal Watchdog –

    “Liberal group’s (PPIC) loaded questions

    Big surprise: A liberal-leaning think tank releases a study showing that Californians want more government spending on public education. As the Public Policy Institute of California explains in a newly released study, ”As California once again confronts a multibillion dollar budget deficit, concern has grown considerably among the state’s residents about the consequences of spending cuts on kindergarten through 12th grade education, according to an annual survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) with funding from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Californians today are more likely than last year to believe that funding for their local schools is inadequate, and parents of public school students are far more likely to say that state budget cuts have had a big effect on their children’s schools.”

    Ironically, PPIC claims not to have a political bias, although it’s clear especially from the loaded questions in this survey that it has a strong outlook. The questions mostly seem geared to eliciting the response that the schools are underfunded. I only saw one question relating to the effectiveness of current spending and nothing relating to the misuse of taxpayer dollars or to the way unions influence school spending. Most of the questions strike me as loaded ones that result in a predictable result.”

    This is the problem with paying attention to polls…

  7. wdf1

    Ironically, PPIC claims not to have a political bias, although it’s clear especially from the loaded questions in this survey that it has a strong outlook. The questions mostly seem geared to eliciting the response that the schools are underfunded.

    Are we looking at the same survey? Which questions do you have in mind?

    I thought it was all rather neutral. I’ve never viewed general PPIC surveys like this as tilting one way or another. Perhaps some of their other products may have hints of bias.

  8. David M. Greenwald

    Elaine: PPIC is a very well respected organization and they do outstanding work. Regardless, the key in all surveys is to watch the trends and watch where other polls are headed.

  9. E Roberts Musser

    Sorry, but I don’t trust polls or the institutions who take them. Call me a cynic 🙂

    dmg: “Elaine: PPIC is a very well respected organization and they do outstanding work.”

    Would you say that if they didn’t agree w your views? Where do they get their funding from? What is their agenda? Do they ever have a conservative outlook on an issue? Or is it a liberal think tank? The organization that is critical of PPIC could also be a politically driven organization itself. History shows us that polls often get things wrong…

  10. Frankly

    “Sorry, but I don’t trust polls or the institutions who take them.”

    I agree with Elaine. Surveys today are often are used to shape public opinion rather than take its pulse. Unfortunately, I think too many surveys derive their accuracy this way… actually influencing the thinking of people too busy or too lazy to think for themselves.

    CA is a mess of business-unfriendly regulations and taxes. Why not ask the unemployed how they feel about this job-killing legislation?

    “While out-of-state oil companies have spent millions backing the measure, they have been outspent in recent weeks by opponents, who have contributed more than $10.6 million this month. That comes on top of the $12.6 million reported by the No on 23 campaign of Sept. 30.

    Some of the largest donations have come from the National Resources Defense Council, the National Wildlife Federation and investors in alternative energy.”

    I love how some demonize one industry while angelifying another (e.g. Big Oil bad, alternative energy good). So, profit-seeking alternative energy companies spend millions to defeat prop 23 and this does not raise the hackles of progressives prone to lament corporate dollars being used to influence political outcomes?

    I search hard for signs of respectable objectivity, but little pieces of evidence keep showing only self-serving bias.

  11. Frankly

    Note: The biggest outside-group spending in this election has come from government-employee unions, not the conservative groups, as the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. They have spent $171 million,. The unions want trillions of government spending and expansion of the public sector.

    Looks like they are buying California elections.

    How does a good progressive justify so much union money being spent verses the money spent by business to influence political outcomes? Let me guess “labor good, business bad”… or “public sector good, private sector bad”?

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