Let's face it - being 'green' is the new cool. But sometimes an ulterior, industry-driven motive lurks behind the 'green halo' that we trust in so-called environmental organizations. This blog is dedicated to keeping individuals and organizations who claim to be for clean, renewable energy accountable.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Lesson from Colorado

There’s a good Washington Post article today that talks about the success of a 2004 ballot initiative in Colorado that required utilities to produce 10% of their electricity from renewable energy sources:

When Colorado voters were deciding whether to require that 10 percent of the state's electricity come from renewable fuels, the state's largest utility fought the proposal, warning that any shift from coal and natural gas would be costly, uncertain and unwise.

Apparently, Colorado voters also had to accept or reject the scare tactics of a Big Utility unwilling to make the shift from coal and gas to clean energy.

After legislative efforts failed, proponents of renewable energy turned to the ballot that year. The initiative, Amendment 37, required the state's biggest utilities to generate 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. Advocates found themselves facing off against Xcel, which said it feared for its bottom line.

What makes this article great is that it is about an initiative that passed FOUR YEARS ago. So we in California can take a little peak into what our future might be if Prop 7 passes:

Then a funny thing happened. The ballot initiative passed, and Xcel Energy met the requirement eight years ahead of schedule. And at the government's urging, its executives quickly agreed to double the target, to 20 percent.

But Colorado’s experience also teaches us that we shouldn’t expect we won’t continue to get the same gloom-and-doom propaganda from the Big Utilities if Prop 7 does pass.

Colorado's growing political and economic commitment to renewables is causing fear in the oil and gas industry, which is fighting to keep its tax breaks and its influence over state rulemaking. "We're not feeling very cherished," said Collins, whose oil and gas association represents more than 30 companies.

Alice Madden, the Democratic majority leader in the Colorado House, looks at the oil and gas industry today and recalls Xcel before the passage of Amendment 37. She has little sympathy for Collins's arguments, especially at a time when oil and gas profits are soaring.
"It's Chicken Little all over again: 'The sky is going to fall,' " said Madden, who also chairs Western Progress, an advocacy group. "The oil and gas companies see the writing on the wall, the shift to renewables. They want to make as much money as they can, right now."

In the run up to the 2004 election in Colorado, the Big Utilities there used almost identical scare-tactics to persuade voters to let them remain addicted to dirty coal and oil. Amendment 37 will “add hundreds of millions of dollars to customers’ bills” and “Amendment 37 is unnecessary because Colorado already ranks eighth in the country among states using renewable energy.”

Here, the Big Utilities are trying to scare the bejeezus out of voters with claims that Prop 7 will “lock in market rates at 10% above market price and lead to increases for rate payers” and that Prop 7 makes the market “ripe for manipulation that could lead to another energy crisis.”

I won’t dwell on the hypocrisy of the Big Utilities’ who engineered the 2001 energy crisis, with the help of the select environmental groups now opposed to Prop. 7, now leveling charges that harken to those dark days.

Instead, I’ll focus on the positive. In a court ruling earlier this month, a Sacramento Superior Court judge threw out a lawsuit by the No on Prop 7 campaign alleging that the Yes on 7 side was false and misleading in stating that “the measure would never add more than 3 percent annually to residents' electric bills, that it would create over 370,000 new jobs and that it would bar utilities from passing penalties onto ratepayers if the utilities failed to meet the measure's requirements for renewable energy.”

The Big Utilities will undoubtedly unleash a barrage of negative television ads and mail pieces to trick voters into voting against Prop 7. I'd love to hear from folks on this - anyone get a mail piece or a phone call yet from No on Prop 7 campaign? If so, what are they saying?

Let’s hope CA voters see past the propaganda and lies and that the Big Utilities here are taught the same lesson the Big Utilities in Colorado had to swallow.

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