editorial: Moving toward greener energy with Prop. 87


One of the classic traditions in the newspaper business is to take a stand on issues important to the community. Where the news pages are filled with balanced, unbiased reporting, a space is reserved in the Opinion pages of most reputable newspapers to share the view of the editorial board on the hot topics of the day.

Naturally, this tradition can be the source of strong opinions in the community at large. As such, it can often be an agonizing process for the editorial board to choose to support or oppose an issue, one we do not take lightly.

Where does the board stand on the seals at Children’s Pool? What does the newspaper think of the cross atop Mount Soledad? How does the editorial board feel about parking in the Village? We have announced our positions on these and many other controversial subjects on the minds of La Jollans, usually after much gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair and general agonizing over making informed decisions.

However, there are times when a consensus is easily reached. There are certain subjects, like citizen safety, health and education, in which the opinions are agreed upon almost immediately. Our approval of Proposition 87 is one of them.

Proposition 87 would levy a tax on oil taken from wells within the state to fund a $4 billion program that encourages the use of clean-energy alternatives. The idea is to reduce the use of oil and gasoline in California by 25 percent in the next 10 years.

Opponents of the proposition - the majority of which are oil producers - say that this would drive up the cost of gas at the pump and increase our dependence on foreign oil. But, his comes across more as a threat than a warning.

The companies who make money off the use of fossil fuels are not interested in how much money it will cost us, the consumers. If that were true, we would not be forced to endure unnecessary price hikes that come every summer and every time someone sneezes in the Middle East. It’s hard to see them as looking out for the little guy when oil company profits in the hundreds of billions and when one company executive is handed a $400 million retirement gift.

But, who can fault them for trying? It’s the American way, after all, to keep costs low and profits high. This is not a chastisement of an industry for making money. This is about doing the right thing for the environmental health of our state and our world.

It’s important to restate that Proposition 87 is about taxing the oil from California wells only. Several oil-producing states are already collecting such a levy, in Texas, Louisiana and Alaska. The difference is these states aren’t using the funds to eventually reduce their dependency on oil products.

The oil companies are disingenuous in their threats of increased dependence on foreign oil. The whole idea of this is to decimate our reliance on the polluting resources. We need to put more energy into researching things like biofuels, wind and solar power. And we know the only way to get the ball rolling is with funds to do the research.

The fact is our state has the worst air quality in the country. We also have the highest gas prices. And yet, next to nothing has been done to reduce our dependence on this limited resource.

We have been presented the opportunity to show the rest of the country that we value the environment, that we believe that the future of power is cleaner fuel sources. It’s much like the message we sent by voting in favor of money for stem-cell research. We are forward thinkers who care about our future.

Sure, a good number of celebrities have piped up in support of the proposition. But, this is not an issue of theatrical importance. We’re not being asked how to light a set or fake emotion in front of a camera or how to hit those high notes. Until then, the actors and musicians and movie producers who believe their fame somehow makes them experts in legislative affairs should be shown the same consideration we show a 3-year-old who opines about quantum physics.

The real experts are the ones who have dedicated their lives to the environment as well as using the political process for positive change. Two of those heavyweights have been quite vocal on Proposition 87: President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. They have been joined by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, U.N.

Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell.

We are only too happy to take a stand beside them and support Proposition 87.